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Andy Hertzfeld on the Original 'Boot Beep' (folklore.org)
88 points by evo_9 1369 days ago | hide | past | web | 36 comments | favorite

The history of Macintosh boot sounds, including the original: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ns3ynH7bFsU

Here's one that includes the "death sounds" played in the event of a crash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTVmrX6Lee0

Not knowing that the death chimes existed while playing tech support in high school, I heard one of these.The chime that ascends and then descends off-key really can send a chill down your spine if you're not expecting it, especially when the machine dies and won't play it again.

My favourite is the Macintosh Quadra AV. After that they get droopy.

Seems to me like the later ones pitched down right at the end, making them sound kind of sad. All the early ones sounded nice and chirpy.

Folklore.org is a great site, and I say this as someone who doesn't really like the recent Apple at all. The stories about the technical team, particularly those about Burrell Smith, are just great.

I'm holding out hope that one day we'll have Folklore.org-style recollections and inside stories about the making of products like the iPhone. But I'm not counting on it.

I'd have more hope for companies that went down under after being wildly successful, whose early team members no longer feel the need to stay silent.

Some candidates would include the Delorean car company, RIM (they'll surely cease to be a going concern with time), some of the Linux companies of the 90s, etc

This is one I really enjoyed on WebOS developed by Palm.


Related: someone has reproduced the beep in Javascript for posterity:


I wonder how to get rid of the "smacking" sound at the beginning.

Just need to fade the volume up from zero (actually -∞ but never mind) over the first few samples. Same at the end.

The problem is that the generated waveform does not begin at zero, causing your speakers to jump from the zero position instantaneously to some other position when the sound begins playing.

Now, obviously the laws of physics prevent this from actually happening, so you hear a pop. The lower the pitch of the sound, the louder the pop is likely to be, for reasons I'm sure people here can work out.

So, the solution is to generate a wave that starts at zero, or add some tiny fades. Note that music playback software does this when you hit pause/play. Some of them have an obvious fade you can hear, but they all add some fading, to avoid popping from stopping/starting the sound in the middle of a cycle.

EDIT: I was feeling ultra-helpful so I took a screenshot of the waveform to show what I mean: http://imgur.com/uWOlJcs

That is indeed ultra-helpful, thanks for the explanation!

this is essentially the same trick that gave birth to Karplus-Strong algorithm: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karplus%E2%80%93Strong_string_s...

I was thinking the same. Though Karplus-Strong generally starts out with a triangle, pulse or white noise, if I am not mistaken?

The vanilla algorithm starts with buffer full of white noise. However it originated as modification to a wavetable synthesizer that modified the waveform samples as it played them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUcNzPhZdwk&t=28m34s

Nice video. Need to learn more DSP.

Depending on what your current background is (need to know a bit of math, very basic complex numbers, etc), when I started out to learn DSP, this tutorial helped me loads:

Yehar's DSP Tutorial for the Braindead http://yehar.com/blog/?p=121

It was an ASCII textfile when I read it, back in 1999, doing demoscene stuff, someone had coded a speech synthesizer in a 4k demo. So I had to email that guy to ask them "WAT??" and he answered explaining me basics like how to set up the Soundblaster with a streaming circular buffer, then sent me to read this tutorial, and explained loads of other stuff.

I also dug a lot of interesting things from the music-dsp mailinglist and many articles on Harmony-Central.com. That site still exists, but I can't find any of the old articles and tutorials related to digital synthesis any more. That's where I first read about Karplus-Strong physical modelling of stringed instruments. I think they were in a section called "Music & Computers" or something, but nowadays that place seems like a weird sort of blog/forum combo. I always had the feeling that the DSP section of Harmony-Central was only a small part of the site's intended purpose, does anyone have an idea where those articles went? (come to think of it, I don't think I've simply tried old versions on archive.org yet)

Cool story, with a definite hacker vibe to it. It's also understandable that Jobs didn't want to drill a hole in the case just to improve the boot beep.

Then again, it's cool that he listened to the demo.

I don't think the hole would only fix the boot beep, it would probably improve all sound on the machine (as it would all suffer from the same muffling, it doesn't seem like it was a resonance issue).

sadface! enthusiasm shouldn't always be encouraged, but this was a wonderful contribution! how did computer cases not have holes like this in them already?!

Charlie Kellner should have looked for a less visible way to get the sound out. A hole in the back? On the bottom?

Seems simple enough that I bet something is missing from the story.

That anecdote does nothing to lessen my dislike of marketers and other similarly worthless people that value form over function.

But isn't a better sounding boot beep also form? Isn't this really just somebody choosing form over form? Just because the engineer was an engineer doesn't make his aesthetic preference (a better-sounding boot beep) any more empirical than Jobs' aesthetic preference (no extraneous holes in the case).

Also, calling marketers 'worthless people' is a callow statement. I'm an engineer, but we build the things we make for people to use, so the people who help other people understand the value in what we make are far from worthless.

If you need people to explain to other people why the stuff you build is great, then maybe the stuff ain't that great after all and you need propaganda experts to lie to people and fool them into buying your products?

Neither an automobile, a bridge nor a fridge require people telling me how those two objects can ease my life. It is immediately obvious to me - as all good engineering projects should be.

Actually an automobile did require a lot of PR to convince people it was better than horses. You just live in a world where everyone uses automobiles already.

If it wasn't for PR people then we wouldn't be engineers working on computers today. People initially didn't like computers either.

In both cases it wasn't immediately obvious why people would want to use these products.

I'm curious as to what you developed that was so immediately obvious to customers that you didn't need a sales team to become so wealthy and popular.

All of the things you listed have had (from your perspective) the greatest marketing of all: ubiquity. When you have something new, you do in fact have to show people why it's useful.

You think the automobile was an easy sell when it first hit the market? Maybe you should read some automotive history. Laws were very restrictive about the first cars in favor of horses, and people needed some major convincing that cars were better.

Not just subjected to restrictive laws, but also considered in popular culture as child-killing machines, and it was a marketing campaign that created the concept of "Jay Walking", putting the responsibility on people to get out of the way of the car.

The (great) podcast 99% Invisible has an episode about it: http://99percentinvisible.org/post/47063460311/episode-76-th...

Apple is full of propagandists, according to you? Steve Jobs was the Joseph Goebbels of technology in his day?

the people who help other people understand the value in what we make

I thought the discussion was about marketers.

The function was already established: it made a beep. The entire discussion was around form. It's not form over function, it's arguably exactly the right balance between the two.

I wouldn't say that only those who care solely about function are the only worthwhile people, either. Unless you wear only woven sackcloth and eat only nutrient pills.

If you can't sell the form it's not going to matter what the function is.

I wonder, what amount of money goes to making sure the sound of car door sounds just right. Is it form? Is it function?

That is far from the original boot beep. PCs were beeping when turned on long before Macs ever existed.

I suggest you read the article.

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