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Computer Randomly Plays Classical Music (microsoft.com)
108 points by jblesage on July 27, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

"This is an indication sent to the PC speaker from the computer's BIOS that the CPU fan is failing or has failed, or that the power supply voltages have drifted out of tolerance."

I can't help think that it might be more useful to play a short recording saying something like "The CPU fan is failing. The CPU fan has failed."

On the other hand, this is undeniably awesome, and would perhaps make people feel a bit better about having to repair their computer (I know that it would make me feel better).

If anything, what we need is more musical cues indicating system health. From the forboding opening strains of Orff's "O Fortuna" when the system first starts to overheat, through to Debussy's "Clare de Lune" while the CPU goes through a tearful montage of the many documents and applications that it's helped during its short life, before whispering its last goodbyes to an ocean-like plane of blue screen, the system could increase the user's empathy with a musical journey through its struggles.

With innovations like this, I might even shed a tear when the host lays itself down to die, rather than hammering the keyboard in futile rage.

I remember running a small Windows app that would sit in the background and pipe sound of various frequencies through your speakers depending on system state. I think I had mine set up to rumble at 30 or 40Hz at 50% CPU and slowly increase the volume as it got past that point.

One night after I turned the volume up for a particularly quiet movie I fell asleep and let folding@home go. I woke up a couple minutes later with my subwoofer rattling the entire room and my roommates knocking on my door to make sure the place wasn't falling apart.

Similar experience here. My old roommate's name is Khanh and he found a clip of William Shatner yelling "Khan" from a Star Trek movie that he put on his voice mail and as start up sound for his PC. Every so often he would leave his speakers turned up and in the middle of the night his computer would restart due to a windows update. I'd just hear William Shatner yell KKKKHHHHHAAAANNNN randomly in the middle of the night.

The program I remember fondly along those lines is Nullsoft Beep:


It essentially makes your computer sound like something from Forbidden Planet, hence instantly bringing you into the future of the past.

That's the one! Now someone needs to port it to Linux...

I think a simple rendition of "Daisy, daisy... " might be more appropriate.

Just as a note, I think the song is named "bicycle built for two"

But it woud be very funny.

Of course after it has been fixed it should play Also Sprach Zarathustra: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/71/Richard_Straus...

And when the speaker fails it should play Imperial March on the HDD

And for a RAM failure, it should play A Bicycle Built for Two.

This is a great idea. And when you sell/toss out your computer there should be a "shut down, for the very last time" button you can press that would play something like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbN0g8-zbdY

Although after the first minute you might be tempted to just yank the power cord out.

Just think how much better it would be to hear "Rhapsody in Blue" along with a BSOD. Or perhaps just Joni Mitchell's "Blue". :)

I assume the PC speaker actually means the one connected directly to the motherboard, not whatever is connected to the sound card (which may be part of the motherboard). The voice recording would probably sound something more like:

  Krrfhrhfhfbhorg.  Krrfhrhfhfbhord.

I don't know... we really made use of the PC speaker before sound cards were the norm. Remember the nice PC speaker sounds of the combat in the original Battle Chess? The only question is how much raw sound data you are allowed to store in your chip.

This webpage has some nice musical examples.


Which would still be more useful than classical music, if your objective is to tell the user that something is wrong.

Actually, in ~1987 on our XT clone, my dad or I'd found a little program whose sole purpose was to play a short snippet of something like "Mushroom, magic mushroom" - I think from a commercial or something.

It was grainy, but not only was the speech intelligible, the music wasn't overly painful (i.e. it was grainy, but only a bit more than a bad record).

I remember that...

I had a copy on a 5.25" floppy, copied it to the both the school librarie's XT machines and made it part of the boot batch file. Apparently I was the only one who found it amusing :(

especially if you don't speak English.

I came home to my crashed PC one day and it was very quietly playing a sound over and over. I turned the volume way up and it was saying something like "The CPU has failed!" over and over. It was more freaky than awesome.

At least it wasn't saying "Look behind you" or something.

This is great. If a customer calls up saying that their computer failed after playing a certain song it idiot proofs the detection process (assuming the user was there to hear it.) It transcends languages and even if the user can't identify the song, they can hum it (again, assuming they aren't tone deaf.)

even if the user can't identify the song, they can hum it - I've always wondered what a computer equivalent of NPR's Car Talk http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Car_Talk would be like

Anybody else clicked this thinking it would be an artificial intelligence module that exhibited musical creativity?

Fur Elise doesn't exactly say, "Help! Turn me off! I'm melting!" I think a Star Trek red alert klaxon would be more appropriate.

I'm not sure what "It's a Small World" says. Definitely not, "Your voltage is out of spec".

You can always change the lyrics. You can sing "it's you voltage out of spec" to the same tune.

Hahaha yeah. Here is the link for those that don't know: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7J-y2rFfny8

Wow, as soon as I heard that sound I was reminded of sitting in front of my old Macintosh LC II system. Maybe I had set it up to use the klaxon for the beep sound. It's strange the way sounds can bring back memories like that!

I'm pretty sure this one was actually the motherboard manufacturer's idea, but Microsoft did something far stupider.

In Windows XP, if you open Windows Explorer and have the search sidebar active, there's a little animated yellow dog sitting there below the search form. He's originally from Microsoft Bob, and he's there as your 'agent' to search your filesystem. The animation goes through a full cycle about every 90 seconds, and in part of it the dog pants twice. A sound is played through your speakers.

This confuses and infuriates people: http://ask.metafilter.com/38461/ http://ask.metafilter.com/51844/ http://ask.metafilter.com/52427/ http://ask.metafilter.com/65029/ http://ask.metafilter.com/70851/

That's amazing, I'm going to leave the search window open now, A badly designed Windows feature is the best virtual pet I can think of.

The sad thing about this is that I kind of understand why someone would make something like that. The first Windows DLL I ever made was nothing more than an attempt to make a function that would play notes on the PC speaker in both Win 98 & 2K.

I actually had a little music player written in VBS that used it. For those who know enough about VBS to wonder how on earth you could access a DLL from it, someone else made an OCX marked 'safe for scripting' that did that by writing out assembly code and then calling it via some hack. And you could even store the OCX inside the script by abusing more crazy bugs that let you open a file in binary mode (though you had to store the OCX as a horrible "string" constant).

Oh, and we're not done with the Rube Goldberg contraption yet. It was actually executed not by Windows itself, but via some proprietary company testing tool that used VBS to script itself. I blame severe boredom for causing me to do things in such an absurd way. I didn't think of using it for an alarm, though.

Incidentally, the only piece I ever wrote for it was one of Chopin's Etudes. I don't think I can find that piece any more, but it would be something like this (but the piece had only one note at a time):


Does anyone have video of a computer doing this? I'm curious to see what it sounds like.


Would have been way funnier if they played Mozart's Requiem Mass instead of Fur Elise.

I've actually experienced this years and years ago on my grandmother's machine. It played Fur Elise because it had a short. We needed to figure out the name of the song in order for tech support to help us identify what it meant.

When I worked for Bravo, which contracted me out to Software Spectrum, which contracted me out to Microsoft, back in 1999-2000 - I was supporting Windows 95/98 and all the applets installed (theoretically meaning I supported, for example, MS Paint and Notepad and such...) - I had access to a certain level of the MSKB.

I printed out but subsequently lost, and haven't been able to find anywhere - there was an article about Kraft cheese inserted into a floppy drive. It was meant as a joke, and wasn't public... but I wish I hadn't lost it. (IIRC, the basic advice was "don't do this"...)

Aw, nuts! The server product I am working on actually does the same thing. If the program is unable to output log messages to the console (for example if the user has selected some text), Für Elise will play on the PC-speaker, since we don't have another way to scream about errors.

With this, we might actually misdiagnose complaints from our customers..! Who would have thought?

It's a shame they don't play Beethoven's 5th Symphony: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4IRMYuE1hI

And when I say a modern PC is a kludge, people don't believe me.

lp0 on fire.

The origins of the "printer on fire" error message are actually quite interesting -- IIRC the error is generated if the printer status lines indicate an impossible state that a normal printer would never produce.

Sounds more like Skynet coming true. The computer play music when they want to!

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