John Gruber: I remember it fairly vividly — as much as one can remember any trip to Chevy's vividly. Everybody was in an ecstatic mood, because Twitterrific, the first third-party Twitter client and the first native app to access Twitter, written by the Iconfactory, had won an Apple design award. And this was 2008, so this was the first year that there even was an iOS app store. We were all just happy for them. And of course, we went to the best restaurant we could possibly find, which was Chevy's.
Christa Mrgan: In June 2008, thousands of Apple developers descended on San Francisco for WWDC, Apple's World Wide Developer Conference. The iPhone was only a year old, and anticipation was high for the app store, due to launch the following month. After the very first Apple Design Award --or "ADA"-- event, to feature awards for iPhone apps, some friends in town for the conference met for dinner at Chevy's. The one on Third , across from the Moscone Center. It's not there anymore. Like Panic's first iPhone app, it's now just a memory. A pretty funny one.
Craig Hockenberry: Actually, the first time I heard it was at a, uh, at a Mexican restaurant in San Francisco. We had just won our ADA for Twitterrific, and then we decided to, to go out and get something to eat. And drink. So we headed over to Chevy's.
John Gruber: Now, Chevy's of course, is actually not a fine restaurant. It happened to be the nearest restaurant to Moscone, which is how we wound up there. But it is… it is that sort of hyper-Americanized, quote-unquote Mexican food. Giant margaritas that come in glasses the size of your head, that aren't very good.
Christa Mrgan: That was John Gruber.
John Gruber: I'm John Gruber. I write a website called Daring Fireball.
Christa Mrgan: And Craig Hockenberry.
Craig Hockenberry: My name is Craig Hockenberry. I am a software developer. I work with the Iconfactory.
Christa Mrgan: And among the friends drinking margaritas with them that night were Cabel Sasser and Steven Frank, co-founders of Panic, Inc, a software- and game-publishing company. So they were drinking and celebrating and talking, and--
John Gruber: Steven and Cabel had said, we have this idea. And we were like, "come on, come on, come on, tell us, tell us more." And they were like, well, rather than tell you, it would be better if we didn't tell you. And you just listened.
Craig Hockenberry: So he pulled out his laptop and gave everybody the, the headphones that were connected up to it, and one person after the next just started cracking up.
Steven Frank: It was a fairly universal reaction that people would just crack up when they heard this. My name is Steven Frank and I am the cofounder of Panic.
Craig Hockenberry: And you couldn't wait for that laptop to be passed around the table cause there were, there were a lot of people there. Steven Frank was there. John Gruber, Cabel Sasser...
Cabel Sasser: It was surprisingly hilarious to watch people try this app out. They'd just put these headphones on and have a serious face for a little bit, and then their face would just sort of melt and they would like sink into the chair a little bit. It was very funny to me to watch other people experience this ridiculous, ridiculous thing.
Christa Mrgan: Welcome to the Panic Podcast, a podcast about Portland's Panic inc, but maybe not exactly. I'm Christa Mrgan. Join me as I follow the quirky subplots and surprising characters that round out Portland's most lovable indie software- and game-publishing company.
So back in 2008, Panic made serious apps for serious people. Tools for web development and file transfers. So what was this app that was making everyone crack up in a Mexican-American chain restaurant? To answer that, we need to return to the dawn of the App Store.
Craig Hockenberry: It was a very exciting time. Mobile was going to be a big thing. It was very clear to me at that point.
John Gruber: It was just heady times because the app store was brand new. Everything was different in 2008.
Craig Hockenberry: Because it was 10 years ago. Right? That's a long time in internet time.
John Gruber: 'Cause now we're all sort of jaded about the prospects of making money on iOS apps. It's turned out to be a very different market than the Mac market, in terms of what you could charge. But at the time, everybody thought, my God, this is going to be like the Mac, but with tens and tens of millions of customers.
Christa Mrgan: Most of us remember the iPhone App Store launch in 2008 and the iPhone app gold rush that followed. Indie developers flocked to the platform, all determined to build a breakout up that would earn them millions. And pretty soon that gold rush… turned into a brown rush.
John Gruber: The gold rush mentality was such that anything that could be an app became an app. So something like a fart app that had one button that played a fart sound would be rather easy to code. Why? I think, you know, whoopee cushions and that sort of novelty toy have been, they've been around as long as there have been novelties to sell. So: easy to make, universal appeal. Everybody thinks farts are funny.
Christa Mrgan: By March, 2009, just nine months after it launched, the iPhone App Store, as the iOS App Store was known back in olden times, contained over 60 different applications dedicated to the highbrow art of generating on-demand fart sounds. March 2009 is also when Panic secretly tested the app store waters with a beautiful, meticulously crafted creation of their own.
Are you getting it? Well, there's one more thing. Okay. Maybe a few more things. Now, fart sounds weren't the only novelty audio blowing up for iPhones at the time. Podcasts had been growing in popularity since 2004, when with RSS, it became possible to embed audio and other media into newsfeed updates and sync them directly to iPods. By the launch of the app store, this emerging medium was heavily dominated by Apple devices. And on iPhones, podcasts were almost as trendy as fart sounds.
Martin Pittenauer: Podcasts were a really new thing back then, and there was a lot of buzz, but there was also a lot of uh, ridicule still. And especially because it was kind of like Steve Jobs said back then, the Wayne's World of radio, I guess.
My name is Martin , and I'm a coder/Jack of all trades at the Coding Monkeys, which is a software company in Germany. I have my own podcast here in Germany, in German language, sadly, so most of your listeners probably won't enjoy it. Um, But it's just a "white guys talk about tech" podcast anyway, so there's no, no big loss. But we are around for some time now. We have recorded 350 episodes.
Christa Mrgan: So, okay. Podcasts were a growing trend in 2009, but they hadn't yet really come into their own. There were still mainly produced and listened to by tech-savvy people and Apple fans in particular. You know, like people who would make Mac and iPhone software. People who would go to WWDC. You know, nerds.
Steven Frank:: I was like, man, I've got to, I gotta find a way to take this down a peg. It's just my gut reaction to something like that. So that's when I had the idea.
Christa Mrgan: Why not, thought Panic's co-founder Steven Frank, combine podcasts, this zenith of the zeitgeist, with the nadir of human comedy — that was also, for whatever reason, a huge trend in the early app store.
Cabel Sasser: Steve concocted this ridiculous idea, which was just, what if we took podcasts and just put fart sounds in them as if they sounded like they're a part of the podcast, and that would be hilarious. And it was. And then, what if we made an iOS app out of that?
Steven Frank: Pantscast was a, an app that just did one very simple thing. It was a podcast player, but it would monitor the podcast as it was playing for periods of extended silence and insert fart sounds into those silences.
Christa Mrgan: It was a podcast player. It was a fart app. It was an iOS app that put farts into podcasts.
Craig Hockenberry: Oh, it was pretty funny. It was a really simple concept, but just the execution of it was, was brilliant.
Steven Frank: Any comedian will tell you, I guess the timing is everything when it comes to being funny. And, uh, it was, it was true even in code.
Christa Mrgan: Pantscast took the fact that many podcasts had a lot of ah-ing, umm-ing, and dead air, and it fixed them. By adding farts.
Steven Frank: As it was playing it would just look for periods of silence lasting for more than about a second, second and a half, and when it detected a silence that had gone on for long enough, it would pick a random sound from the fart library and just play it right then and there. And yeah, I definitely have a standout memory of adjusting the, the variable that set the length of silence that had to occur before fart sound had a chance of playing because that was so crucial to the, to the humor of the whole thing.
Tim Coulter: There was a performance aspect to it. Like it was like a randomly generated fart performance. My name is Tim Coulter and I a do web development at Panic. I do a lot of work with the documentation websites like the Panic library. That kind of stuff. My major contribution was sorting through this huge library of fart sounds that Cabel's friend Jona had found for us.
Christa Mrgan: I reached out to artist and musician Jona Bechtolt, one half of the art-pop band Yacht, who originally sourced the farts. His response? Silence.
Tim Coulter: So I spent a day going through this folder of fart sounds and editing out the ones that — some of them had like dialogue attached to them. Like, you know, people making weird sounds in addition to the flatulence. Uh, So I had to edit those down and, um, just make them into… something usable. And that took the better part of a day. I remember. Uh, yeah, it was a weird day.
Christa Mrgan: And if you're curious about the podcast that was used in the demo on Steven's laptop back at Chevy's, during WWDC? It was an episode of David Pogue's New York times tech podcast.
John Gruber: What made it so funny? It sounded incredibly, incredibly real, as real as it could have been, but yet David Pogue and whoever else was on the show because clearly they weren't farting. It came across as though they were playing it as straight as they possibly could with no, of course, no acknowledgement whatsoever that their podcasts was riddled with farts.
Christa Mrgan: The demo was clearly a big success, at least within this circle of friends. And by the time Panic's designer Neven Mrgan got involved, Steven and Cabel, with a lot of help from Tim, had a pretty good idea of what the app should be.
Neven Mrgan: Pantscast was meant to be the premier fart app for iPhone in an era when fart apps were like a legitimate category of software in the app store. Pantscast was probably the first new app that I worked on at Panic. I had worked on, uh, you know, maintenance, uh, stuff for Coda and Transmit. But Pantscast was sort of the first from-zero project that I worked on. As the designer, I sort of got to design the visuals of it and provide some input on how it would work.
Cabel Sasser: When we started designing this app, I think it became abundantly clear that the more beautiful and polished it was, also, the funnier it became.
Christa Mrgan: Early design for the iPhone was steeped in skeuomorphism, often featuring over-the-top textures and hyper-realistic details.
Neven Mrgan: So Pantscast is a silly app and we wanted to play that up, not by making it look silly, but by making it look serious. To sort of imply that this whole idea of adding farts to your podcast was like an audiophile filter or effect that you would choose to add to your audio and not just a silly joke. So early on, I think we had the idea that the app should look very serious, like an audiophile, um, piece of software. Something you would pay serious money to someone in Germany for.
The background of the app is rich, warm wood, on top of which the cover art for the podcast is sort of imagined, almost as like a vinyl jacket, and they're sort of all randomly, jauntily skewed on this desk surface. And then below that is a glossy black uh, like Hi-Fi component type interface with like VU meters and a glossy play button and, like, little screws holding the front plate in the wooden case. If we were making a for-real audio app back then, we would not have made it look like this. We were partially over- skeuomorphing it because it was a joke. We wouldn't put out an app that looked like this if it was for real. But at the same time, once we committed to that look, we had to execute that look a perfectly.
Christa Mrgan: They even went all in on the app icon.
Neven Mrgan: App icons were, uh, very important in the early days of the App Store. Nowadays, they're always a letter on a flat background, but back then people really wanted to stand out. And so we thought about our app icon a lot. Eventually we decided that the funniest possible thing was, uh, the image of a duck.
And so we ended up going with the silhouette of a duck that is emanating those like podcast waves you always have on podcast apps, but that also sort of look maybe like a stinky cloud.
Christa Mrgan: It was a pretty great icon. By the way, you can see it, along with screenshots of the app and the websites by clicking the link in the show notes.
Oh, yes. I said websites, plural, because every iOS app needs a website. But this iOS app also needed an elaborate, fake backstory.
Cabel Sasser : Now, there are a few important things. One was to take it extremely seriously, to not be silly with the webpage or the UI design or whatever. This has to feel like a very professional, very cool podcast player. And then the second thing, which I personally enjoyed, is it has to be just like profoundly anonymous. We cannot reveal that it is us that made this app. Maybe because it's just insane. There's something totally wrong with us. So we have to hide under some sort of secret identity.
Steven Frank: We all thought it was pretty hilarious, but we weren't sure how other people would react to it. And we were pretty hesitant about putting it out under our own name, just in case it became sort of like a a poster boy for like pointless, you know, dumb silly joke apps. So we created a fake company called Hosensoft.
Cabel Sasser: I went to great lengths to concoct a secret corporate identity, which would be the German company Hosensoft.
Martin Pittenauer: Hosensoft was the name of that fictitious company that published Pantscast, and was really into that engineering how the fart sounds get inserted into the podcast.
Cabel Sasser : Had to be German. I'm sorry, you can see why I can't do this! It had to be German, because Germans are very generally thought of as very serious. And, um, and I realize that's not true, but the combination of those two things just made it extra funny. Plus the name Hosensoft is just so good.
Neven Mrgan: So Hosensoft, the company making Pantscast in our fictional, uh, expanded pantsiverse, um, Hosensoft, has this logo that looks very sort of square and professional, but then the H looks like a pair of pants, you know, you have like the two legs. Hosensoft, see?
Cabel Sasser: First thing I did was get a "doing business as" document from the state of Oregon. So Panic Inc doing business as Hosensoft GmbH. I don't even know what GmbH is in German. It's not GmbH, but that to me, that is, you know, German for "corporation." And so we had a legal document that said we're allowed to do business under that name. That then allowed me to register a brand-new Apple developer account as Hosensoft, which I still accidentally log into every now and then. And I'm like, what's happening? Why? Why do I need to pay? Oh, this is the Hosensoft account. Um, So then we could publish the app in the app store from a completely different company name. Uh, Man, we had anonymous Google emails. We made sure all the domains were blocked. Like we went to just ridiculous lengths to be this fake German company, Hosensoft.
Christa Mrgan : In doing background research for this episode, I tried the email address listed on the now-defunct website.
Cabel Sasser : If you email contact at hosensoft.de, I definitely get that email. Yeah, we definitely leaned on our good, good German friends at the Coding Monkeys, who had developed SubEtha Edit, Dominic and Martin. And it was critical that the German landing page for Hosensoft was, did not feel Google translated.
Martin Pittenauer : Cabel asked me to translate the website and give a little bit of feedback in terms of how not to get in trouble with German law while pretending to be a German company.
Cabel Sasser : Again, we had to get this right. Somebody would sniff it out— Oh man, I did it. Somebody… would sniff it out if they detected that our translation was kind of wonky or whatever. So yes, we definitely leaned on some professional Germans to make sure that our professional German company was totally professional.
Christa Mrgan: So there were two websites: Hosensoft.de, which was the website for the parent company, Hosensoft, and mainly a showcase for that really fun logo, and pantscast.com, the site for the actual Pantscast app.
Steven Frank: The Pantscast site specifically, you know, had a large stock photograph of a, um, a very intense-looking man with headphones on. And he looked like he was very seriously listening to some very serious audio that was very high fidelity.
Martin Pittenauer: Yeah. I did the localization of the German website, and to give a little bit of feedback in terms of how to name the fictitious characters, so they actually sound German and stuff like that.
Craig Hockenberry: Well, you couldn't tell that it was Panic that was doing this. That it was some weird German firm, you know, with, with a doctor, you know, Hosenfranken or something like that. I forget what the actual name was.
Neven Mrgan: So the website includes the character of the founder of Hosensoft, the makers of Pantscast, and a quote saying, "for years, I have been perfecting my algorithms. At last you can enjoy the musical fruits of my labor." That is a quote by Dieter Von Laubrau, the CEO of Hosensoft. As with everything else with Pantscast, we had to do it with a straight face. So we created a website that looks very serious, as if it's trying to sell you like a $4,000 amplifier.
Craig Hockenberry : It was kind of making fun of some of the, the audiophile stuff. Right? You know, the, the people that believe that the kind of wire that you use is, you know, makes a difference in the audio quality.
Neven Mrgan: Germany is just associated with high design in general and with like precision and quality in manufacturing of stuff like this. It's the exact level of seriousness against which farts are extra funny, I think.
Christa Mrgan: So Panic created this beautifully-crafted podcast player app for iOS that was essentially a novelty joke app, and they spent a ton of time and went to a lot of trouble to obscure the fact that they had had anything to do with it,creating the backstory with the fake German company, building two websites to go along with it, registering a separate Apple developer's account. And when they finally submitted Pantscast to the app store, they had what is now a very familiar experience. The app got rejected.
Steven Frank: There was a really weird App Store rejection that happened. Out of all the reasons you would think they would reject this app, the actual reason was—
Cabel Sasser: Apple's complaint at the time was that when you hit the "i" button and the user interface flips over to show you sort of the configuration screen. Uh, there's also, we did a really cool thing when it's doing that flip transition, you can kind of see a circuit board in the background, which was like the guts of the audio player or whatever. I thought that was awesome. But anyways, when it flips this back screen, we had a little extra space and there's like a little metal panel at the bottom and it had a fake sort of headphone jack. Just a graphic that said "phones." Well, Apple did not like that because you could not actually plug your headphones into the screen where it says "phones."
Neven Mrgan: Because it's on the phone, on your glass, on the screen. Um, It sort of reminds me of those like Renaissance painter stories where, you know, somebody painted a piece of fruit so real that flies would land on it. Then children would try to grab it out of the painting, thinking it was a real banana.
Cabel Sasser: And so, we actually had to take that out and re-submit without the amazing headphone jack. That's like training. That was training for a lifetime of App Store adventures.
Christa Mrgan: So they re-submitted Pantscast without the fake headphone jack, and it was approved.
Pantscast was officially available in the app store, and could be yours for just one dollar and ninety-nine cents. Remember, this was March, 2009, when iPhone developers thought that people would pay for software. You could add your own podcasts to play in the app, but it also came with a curated list of pre-installed podcasts, including NPR's "Fresh Air," of course, David Pogue's tech podcast, and a podcast about video games, called "Idle Thumbs." I asked one of the hosts, Jake Rodkin, about being included in such a prestigious list.
Jake Rodkin: Oh, it was a delight. It was the best. I feel like our podcast was objectively improved by being in Pantscast. I mean, that's obviously not true. It was, it was terrible and embarrassing. But, um, what you notice is how often you pause in a podcast once Pantscast puts the farts in. Because you don't think about how your own speech cadence works until there is a robot making a fart sound effect whenever you stop talking.
Christa Mrgan: By the way, this is the same Jake Rodkin, who, along with some of the other Idle Thumb's folks and some other friends, would go on to form the game studio, Campo Santo, which created the game Firewatch that Panic published. Back to the story:
Jake Rodkin: Chris Remo, one of the hosts of Idle Thumbs, became really briefly obsessed with this high concept idea. I guess. I think that's a misuse of the word "high concept." He was obsessed with the idea that people had been downloading this onto their phones, didn't understand that it was a fart app, and then just these, the audience of a bunch of podcasts believed for some reason that every podcaster had decided this week to introduce a bunch of fart sounds into their podcast. There's an intro to one of the early episodes of Idle Thumbs where he's, he's talking about how Idle Thumbs needs to start adding, we need to like up the amount of farts that are in our podcasts because all the other podcasts that he's listening to are full of farts.
Christa Mrgan: So how successful was Pantscast, as an app?
Steven Frank: How does one gauge success, really?
Cabel Sasser: I don't know what our expectations were on how many people were going to buy this. I know that Gruber wrote about it on Daring Fireball and he played along very well and a lot of people were super confused by why Daring Fireball was writing up this app, which I loved.
John Gruber: Here's Pantscast 1.0. I linked to this on March 9th, 2009. And I, here's my description: new $2 iPhone podcast player for quote, serious audiophiles from Hosensoft. Recent, and I quote them, recent advancements in audio algorithms developed in some places like Germany and things can squeeze out massively boosted audio depth, tremendous sound stages with increased ASQFT — audio square feet in parentheses — and a much richer wet/dry mix. It's like having the podcast speaker right in a room with you. And then I wrote, "I've used it to listen to several podcasts this afternoon, and it increased my enjoyment."
Cabel Sasser: And some reviews started to come in and people were like, this is hilarious. All of the other stuff. And then there's a one star review that was just, "It's kind of funny, but it's actually a really good podcast player, and I wish I could like maybe turn off the fart sounds or something cause I would maybe use this as my podcast player." And that just like knocked me on my — I like had never even thought about that for a second. It's like the most classic thing that we would do. That we would put all this incredible effort into making this beautifully designed, easy to use, pre-loaded with some great podcasts, one click, and you're off and running, nice UI with VU meters and all this other stuff. And just ruin it with the fart sounds. Not even like make it a toggle switch. Like you could only get the fart sounds and it's just perfect. Of course, we did it that way. In any other non-Panic timeline of this product, that would have been a toggle switch that you could enable. This would have become the number-one podcast player on iOS. We would be sitting on a golden, jewel-encrusted throne of Casper mattresses or whatever, like lording over our domain, and this would have like totally changed the course of the company, but. Had make it only fart-enabled, and that is just the perfect encapsulation of Panic, in my opinion.
Christa Mrgan: And podcast players did become a huge deal. Eventually. I spoke with Marco Arment, the creator of Overcast, one of the most popular podcast apps for iOS, which debuted five years after Pantscast.
Marco Arment: =So Overcast is basically my ideal podcast app. You know, as an avid podcast listener, I used other people's apps for a while and eventually got tired of them and made my own, as programmers tend to want to do. I like podcasts so much, I want to listen to podcasts in lots of different places, lots of different environments, and I want things that save me time, so I can listen to even more podcasts.
Christa Mrgan: And it turns out one thing Marco did in creating his ideal podcast app was to add a silence detection algorithm. Just like Panscast. Only, not at all like Pantscast.
Marco Arment: Smartspeed is my silence skipping feature, and it shrinks the silences between words, not by a massive amount that you'd actually notice and make it sound weird, but enough that you kind of get like one speed-up setting for free. Like, it's like going from one speed to the next in the amount of time you save, but it doesn't really make things sound weird or, and you don't really notice it. It kind of just improves everybody's, you know, comedic timing and makes everything seem a little bit more tightly edited.
Neven Mrgan: Pantscast includes "farts for sure" technology. Here's one problem with podcasts: a lot of them, especially sort of like amateur-produced podcasts have a lot of dead air. Silence. That's exactly what Pantscast looks for. It inserts farts where there's silence. But, if you have a more chatty podcast where there's no silence, we have to guarantee that you will get some farts. That is "farts for sure" technology.
Marco Arment: And then Voice Boost is my volume leveler and, and kinda kind of smooths out the tone. It makes things sound less harsh, but it makes everything louder and consistently the same volume.
Neven Mrgan: But what if you're not getting the right number of farts or what if you think there's a place that would really benefit from a fart but the app is just not doing it? Well, we had a little trumpet button, which would provide a fart on demand whenever you want it.
Jake Rodkin: I feel like Panic was ahead of the game there, but then they, they used their powers for, um, chaotic, neutral or chaotic good, but not, not a pure good the way that Overcast does.
Christa Mrgan: So I asked Marco if he'd consider bringing features like on-demand farts or "farts for sure" technology to his podcast app.
Marco Arment: Yeah… I'm gonna have to put that on the "someday maybe" list, because you are the first person to ever ask for an "insert fart" feature in Overcast.
Christa Mrgan: And I asked Cabel if he had any regrets about not making a real podcast player app.
Cabel Sasser: It's funny. I don't, don't really have regrets. At the time, and even a little bit today, like, we have to make things that make sense to us and that we think we're going to use all the time. And certainly when we made Pantscast, we were not listening to podcasts and we did not necessarily think that they would ever be what they are today.
Steven Frank: I just, I, for whatever reason, I can't get into it. Every once in a while, every year or two, I try to listen to one and I get like 10 minutes in and I just, I just can't do it. I just have to turn it off. I feel bad. I know there's a lot of really nice people who, and some of them are good personal friends, who do podcasts, and I'm sorry to all of you, but I can't listen to your podcasts. Maybe I'll listen to this one. Who knows?
Cabel Sasser: In my entire life, up until maybe this year, I associated NPR with like, coffee mugs and alpaca sweaters, and like those like beaded massage things you put on your car seat or whatever? To me, that's NPR. I could never relate to that world at all. And I could never understand why people listen to it. uh, It didn't make any sense to me. Uh, Me as a person, I don't know what it is. Only now, I'm a 40 year old man and like, I hopped in a car sharing car the other day and NPR was on, and I'm like, oh, this is nice. Everybody's so calm and they're like talking intelligently about things. This is amazing. I could listen to this all day. Apparently I, a switch has finally flipped for me and it took me a very long time.
Christa Mrgan: Pantscast wasn't around for very long, and not a lot of people knew about it.
Cabel Sasser: I mean, like a few people bought it, but it was not like a thing. I, it's not a thing that people want! So our expectations were low, and the response was equally low. And I think we were just like, well, that was super entertaining for us and we really enjoyed doing that. Now we have to do real work. Bummer.
Christa Mrgan: But Panic as a company got to experiment with the process of creating and releasing an app for the iPhone, and that's an experience that Cabel and Steven see as worthwhile.
Steven Frank: I guess we did learn a few things about the App Store from Pantscast. It was sort of our, it was sort of our introduction to that whole world. It let us play around with some of the parameters and like what are the boundaries here and what will they let slide and what will they pay attention to. It was a good practice run, I think, for our later real world iOS apps.
Cabel Sasser: Our apps are big and complicated and we knew that like to bring a Coda to the app store is going to take years. And this seemed like we can test out this new world and get some experience coding for iOS, designing for iOS and doing all that stuff. A lot of things we do start as just experiments and often end as experiments. And this is definitely one of those, but, um, it seemed like something that we could uh, handle.
Christa Mrgan: Panic is known for sweating the details. As a software company, they spend a lot of time crafting their apps to ensure both form and function are flawlessly executed. And even though it was a novelty app released anonymously, Pantscast was no exception.
Cabel Sasser: We definitely have it sort of built into our brains that we can't really do anything half-assed, no pun intended.
Tim Coulter: No, no half assing it. I used my whole ass when I was editing all those fart sounds.
Cabel Sasser: That we have to really do the best version of everything we can do. If we're going to put something out into the world, it has to be great.
John Gruber: There's a craftmanship and a history of that on the, you know, dating back to the classic Mac that's just pure art. And you know, Pantscast was art in the purest sense, you know, in a way that almost like a Banksy project, you know. It is a prank. I think Banksy stuff has more of a, you know, political meaning often than a fart app. But if you're going to do a fart app, why not take it as far as you can go, both technically, just being as clever as you can with the algorithm, getting as large and high fidelity a library of fart sounds as you can, and then take it even further and you know, register a German corporation. Because of course it would be the Germans. Like — and create this whole fake backstory that it's, that it's an audiophile app.
Christa Mrgan: For the people who worked on it and who knew about it at the time, Pantscast stands out as a hilarious moment in their own personal history with the iPhone. I wonder if it should make it comeback.
Cabel Sasser: It would take so much work. We'd have to redraw all the assets at two X. Oh God, nine X, probably, by the time we're done. Can the app even build? God. I really would like to have it again, though. I want to have it on this beautiful new screen, this huge, huge device. We could put four to six VU meters for no reason. And we could like with the storage of a modern iPhone where you could probably have thousands, if not ten thousand different fart sounds. I might need to do this. We might need to do this.
Christa Mrgan: Thanks so much for joining me for this episode of the Panic Podcast. Season One will feature stories about other blasts from Panic's past, including Audion, Totally Side Talkin', and more. So mash that subscribe button is hard as you can, and tell your friends to give it a listen.
This episode was written, produced and edited by me, Christa Mrgan, and our amazing theme music was, of course, composed by Cabel Sasser. A huge thank you to everyone at Panic as well as to our wonderful friends who took the time to talk with me about Pantscast.
Jake Rodkin: Artisanal Portland farts. Are you going to be putting farts into this interview when we stop? Like is this interview going to be pre-processed by Pantscast? [FART SOUND]