The AU file format, developed by Sun Microsystems, is a simple audio file format introduced primarily on NeXT systems and early versions of UNIX. It is characterized by its .au extension and has been widely adopted for sound in web pages and network audio.
Historical Background of AU Format
Originating in the late 1980s, the AU format was one of the first sound formats to be used in network computing. It was part of the broader UNIX environment and quickly became a standard for audio file exchange on early computer networks due to its simplicity and ability to stream.
The AU file format typically includes a header with six fields defining the audio data, such as the audio encoding, sample rate, and number of channels. It supports various encodings, including linear PCM, ADPCM, and ulaw algorithm, making it versatile for different audio requirements.
Being an older format, the AU file format is supported by a range of audio software. This includes media players like VLC and Winamp, as well as audio editing programs like Audacity. It is appreciated for its compatibility with legacy systems and its straightforward playback on various platforms.
Current Usage and Alternatives
While the AU format is not as prevalent as it once was, it still finds its place in certain computing environments, particularly where there is a need for compatibility with legacy systems. However, as the digital audio landscape has evolved, so have the alternatives. Formats such as MP3, WAV, and FLAC offer compression and audio quality improvements that have become the standard for most users. Despite this, the AU format remains a significant footnote in the history of digital audio due to its influence in the early days of computer sound.