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Where does the Mac startup sound come from ? Its creator answers

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If you've owned a few generations of Macs, and whatever their technical differences, or their design, one thing has always been a sort of common thread: the sound they make when they start up. Not that of the operating system, like on Windows PCs… moreover, much more focused on this kind of sound feedback (the startup and shutdown sounds of Windows 95 were not composed by Brian Eno himself?).

But rather directly when you launch the system. For the rest, Apple has always remained minimalist: there has never been a system shutdown sound, and there is only about one sound (alert). ) configurable – to this day. The actual startup sound cannot be changed by the user. On recent Macs, you can just activate or deactivate it via a command in the Terminal. As simple as it is, this agreement has become an integral part of the firm's computer range. So much so that Apple made it a registered trademark in 2012 (USPTO #4,257,783).

Why the startup sound of Macs is so special

But it should never have existed. From the Apple ][, without a graphical interface, the firm introduced a basic startup sound, used until the last phases of the development of the Macintosh. It's 1988, the very first, and a key operating system engineer, Jim Reekes, can no longer stand hearing that shrill chord repeatedly while the machine-crashing bugs are still particularly numerous.

Passionate about music and having assembled a recording studio in his house, he recorded the alternative that we know on a Korg Wavestation EX – a fairly avant-garde synth, which subsequently became typical of many productions, notably dance music, towards the end of the 1980s. As he feared that his idea would be ousted by various echelons, and motivated by his aversion to the start-up sound of the time, Jim Reekes arranged with one of the teams so that his version is integrated at the very last moment.

Enough to present the disgruntled (and Apple management) with a fait accompli: faced with the risk of creating a bug just before the launch of the next Macintosh, no one dares to modify the sound anymore. starting. Which will remain (despite some minor adjustments) the same on subsequent generations, well after the departure of Jim Reekes in 1999. For the record, he says that Apple then refused to let him work on what would become the foundations of iTunes and the iPod in the most complicated period for the very survival of Apple at the end of the 1990s.

Technologies that’ #8217;he continued to develop alone until 2001 – before Apple signed an agreement to use its technologies upon the return of Steve Jobs – allowing the rapid launch of the first major success attributed to its return: the iPod. Let's emphasize that if Jim Reekes' initiative was rather well received, it's because of one last little detail: in addition to being a software engineer talented, this accomplished music lover then held a degree in music theory and composition (California State University Fullerton, 1978-1981). We invite you to watch Jim Reekes return to this story in the video below:

  • Macs owe their startup sound to a key engineer, music enthusiast Jim Reekes.
  • < li>The latter could not stand the shrill sound that sounded when turning on the Macintoshes of the time.

  • For fear that its idea was rejected, he managed to find his way into a finalized ROM, putting the hierarchy in front of a fait accompli.

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Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116