TINY MUSIC MAKERS: Pt 4: The Mac Startup Sound

The Mac startup sound wasn't a $$$ marketing exercise. It was a hack that was quietly dropped into the machine by an engineer with a home studio…
>> This [mp3] famous Mac startup sound (still installed in every new Mac) was recorded Jim Reekes, and first used on the Quadra 700, which launched in 1991 costing $7,000.
>> Jim's most famous pop-culture moment was the scene in Jurassic Park where the park's computers are all rebooted with his sound. But it's most awesome musical use is as the bassline in Transformer di Roboter's ace cover of 'Stranger in Moscow' - here [mp3]
>> Jim 'came out' about creating various Mac sounds (most famously Sosumi) to Boing Boing last month. But he's never before revealed how he actually made them:
>> "The startup sound was done in my home studio on a Korg Wavestation. It's a C Major chord, played with both hands stretched out as wide as possible (with 3rd at the top, if I recall). This just sounded right to me. I wanted something really fat, heavy bass, high notes, and a sharp attack. The chiffy sound was from pan pipes and something like a stick hit (I'm testing my memory here). I wanted lots of evolving timbres, stereo phasing, and reverb for further richness."
>>"Mac people are very familiar with the sound, after restarting their machines too often. In fact, that was one of the issues I was conscious of when designing the sound. Turning the Mac on is one thing, but being forced to reboot from a crash is a totally different experience. I wanted to avoid a sound that would be associated with the crash. I wanted it to sound more like a "palette cleanser".
>>"After I changed the startup sound (which required much persuasion and working around the system) the ROM engineers continued changing it with each new machine. Some of them were weak, such as the Stanley Jordon guitar strum used on the first PowerMacs. I objected to it, because that sound had no "power". The engineer wasn't a recording engineer, and not familiar enough with audio. The sound was hallow and without depth. When Steve Jobs returned in 1997, I heard he wanted only one sound for all Macs. He wanted the "good one" which was the one I created. At least that's how I heard the story, and I was still working there at the time."
>> If you're concerned that you don't know enough about vintage Mac Startup sounds, I can recommend Mactracker, which runs on Mac or PC. Don't show it to your girlfriend.

NEXT UP: The Lord who earned £1000 a week from four notes

It should be noted that the Mac had startup sounds going back to the original Mac II, several years before Jim's startup sound. The Mac II was the start of a sampled startup sound.
The "Tiny Music Makers" series are very nice.

Hope you guys will also do Nokia and T-mobile. don't you hate that default Nokia ringtone? :)

my favourite song using a mac sound in a musical context is probably the hexstatic tune "communication breakdown"

check it out if you can find it. it's a neat track of miscellaneous sounds.

I hate that the mac startup sound on my new ibook sounds like its recorded at 8bit 11 khz. I was expecting clear 16bit surround (or something). Like the nintendo DS built in sounds.
You're probably just hearing the limitations of the iBook's dime-sized built-in speakers. It sounds fine with headphones.
More interesting stuff!
Nice to know a bit more about apple history...

The FatMac sound was like a "Tink" as all one box MacPlus styled Macintosh. That one was also nice, it remembers me that Apple is always a step foward than MS (when time to time a start it again to have fun with old black and white games).

I would then like to find a firmware hack or something like this to change the start-up sound of my Mac, it could be funny and useless therefore clever :D
I always thought it sounded like the first note of "Nothing compares to you" by Sinead O'Connor.
I have to say, that "Stanley Jordon guitar strum" sound was always my favourite Mac startup tone. It was sharp and snappy, and sounded great despite the limitations of crappy internal speakers. The current one sounds muffled and "slow" when on sub-standard speakers.
Apple engineers would also change the startup sounds used on prototype Macs sent out for third-party testing. I worked on Macs that played "Ding-dong, the witch is dead" and whistle "If I only had a brain" from the Wizard of Oz. Another Mac, the Quadra 840AV I believe, was set to play the drum intro from the movie "The Terminator" when starting up.
This is amazing. Two weeks ago I mentioned to my partner that I accidently discovered the hidden meaning behind the mac startup sound during a reboot... It's the last chord you hear right before the Beatles begin singing "Don't Let Me Down" which is what everyone subconsciously thinks as they're pushing the start button
About 8 years ago, I came across a startup sound for the Mac that was formed from all the various system Mac sounds and ended with the standard Mac startup sound.

I've never known what it was called and in the past 8 years, have not come across a single person who has heard it. Has anyone hear heard it? And do you have a copy?
Okay - i can't believe this, but 2 minutes after posting the above post, I FOUND the track!!! For anyone who is interested, I found the link at:

and the link to the actual wav file is at:
I was looking for SGI startup chimes for a while, but nobody seems to have them, much less know where they're from. The crispy guitar from the O2 (or was it the Octane) was the best startup chime ever.

Apple Computer Inc. is a cool company that started off as a bunch of kids messing around in a garage.

The Mac Startup sound is actually very similar to the last note of 'A Day in the Life' by the Beatles (Apple Records)

Don't you think?
Every Mac will play interesting noises if it fails its internal RAM check. You can harmlessly force it to fail its check by pressing the Interrupt button on your system immediately after it starts booting up. Mac II systems play interesting chimes, Quadra AV's play drum solos, LC's play a flute, and the Power Macintoshes play a sound of a car wreck with glass breaking.
thundercat05: no, you cannot change the startup sound in any Mac, as it is burnt into the machine's ROMs and thus is fixed.

That said, it *is* possible ... just very very fiddly, and requires some extremely low-level geek skills:
a) extract your ROM chips without damaging the chips or the iMac's board
b) extract the data from the ROMs
c) find the sound sample location in the ROM dump
d) create a new sound that is *precisely* the same size
e) over-write the existing sound in the ROM dump with yours
f) burn the new ROM dump back to a new set of EPROMs (assuming you can find a blank equivalent to the custom ROM ASICs Apple use, which is unlikely)
g) fit the new ROMs back into the iMac, and pray it all works.
Hmm, that chord in the mp3 file linked here as well as the one in my PowerBook 12" sounded more like a G than a C major ;-)
I think the previous poster is correct!

The later Model Powermacs and such have G chords while the older models (like my 840av) have the C major. They changed the chord at some point, even Mac Tracker is incorrect for the Quadra 840av and 660av which from what I understood were the actual first two computers to use Jim Reeks famous Chord sound
where can i get .wav versions of these classic mac sounds? thanks.
You can find aiff versions of the SGI startup sounds here:

You mean, a palate cleanser?
There is no way in hell that the Mac startup sound resembles any Beatles sound in ANY way. The Mac came out well after Apple got sued by the Beatles and their agency Apple Corps, and Apple Computer was under strict injunctions and was totally NOT going to do anything whatsoever to antagonize the Beatles.
they should improve the quality of that sound on powerbooks. I was using my friend's mac notebook one day and i heard that sound. It made me think of a cheap archaic sound from the 80s. at least clean it up a bit!
well even if the creators of the startup sounds did model them after a beatles song it would be rather hard to prove since it's only a chord and you can't exactly own a chord
We thought they were all so cool we turned them into ringtones. We put up every
startup sound from the 128k to Twentieth Anniversary Mac enjoy!
The Boot sound used today sounds great in my old power mac 6500 because of it's SRS Sound System. It sounds like a sonic boom. But I wish I could change the chime. I would love the TAM Chime in my Powerbook!
I remember that sound from the macs at my elementary school.
Those were cooler that Dells with Win XP on them.
Huh. I thought it was the first chord to the Beatles "Hard Days Night"
Actually it sounds exactly like the last chord of "THE END" OR "A DAY IN THE LIFE" ....GO CHECK IT OUT. indeed, sir paul.
If it sounds like the last chord to either of those songs, it's just because it's a plain ol' major chord, as are those, as are most chords in popular music. The first chord to "Hard Day's Night", however, is some kind of weird sus9th or something. Not even close.
i know someone posted this earlier, but i thought i would add a little something on. it does sound a lot like the last chord struck in "a day in the life" by the beatles. and if you take notice, the last line before that is "i love to turn you on."
a little out of context, i know. but still a fun pun.
I am a music nerd and wonder why this G major chord is so low? I have to tune my Korg stagepiano to about a = 427Hz to get the same tuning. This is right between F# major and G major. Why??? I will not be able to sleep without an answer.
i always been wondered about the start up sound. Thanks for info.
Mactracker is a good recommendation...
If it wasn't for the sound being burned into the ROM, we could have some serious fun with it.

I.E. boot up your new iMac, only to hear the Windows XP startup sound...
Martin said...
I am a music nerd and wonder why this G major chord is so low? I have to tune my Korg stagepiano to about a = 427Hz to get the same tuning. This is right between F# major and G major. Why??? I will not be able to sleep without an answer.

Well, I believe this is the answer:
The original Mac that this sound was used in had a sample rate of 22.254 kHz (which is also the sample rate of the sound itself). Newer Macs (G3s and newer) had to play this sound at the more standard 22.050 kHz (half of the CD standard 44.100 kHz)**. The chord is flat because 22.050 kHz is slower than 22.254 kHz. It would be like playing a record that was designed to play at 33 2/3 (yeah, I know--no such thing) on a standard 33 1/3 turntable.

**Although software should be able to play back sounds of any sample rate (through on-the-fly sample rate conversion or resampling), I'm guessing that because this sound occurs at startup, there is no room for running any sort of audio processing--the sound will play at the native sample rate of the hardware.

Hope you can sleep now ;)
/\ /\ /\ /\
i'm not geek, but it's super! Thnx.

Andrey, smart-tricks
I use "SoundMaster" to have my Macintosh SE/30 computer have the XP startup tune! LOL

8^ ]
That is soooooo awesome (the stranger in moscow mp3 file).
Actually nice stuff. It was interestig for me to know a bit more about apple history...Thanks for info. Really nice post!
Homerun number 2. I'm loving this site and the sounds - really bringing back memories.
All the best I know how much time and hard work you have put into this project.
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These comments have been invaluable to me as is this whole site. I thank you for your comment.
I hate the mac startup sound. It sounds like it's going to blow out my speakers each time it comes on. I hate it when I forget to turn down my speakers. Anyone know how to turn it off?
I cant stand the damn startup sounds on mac

The previous comment about the different hardware sampling rates (22,050 vs 22,254 Hz) is valid as a possible reason why the sound shifted in pitch.

However, this is only a 1% difference. Not enough to really notice unless you have perfect pitch. The error does not explain why the sound shifted 8% in the southerly direction. This must have been a clear programmer error of some sort.

I have perfect pitch and play the piano, and I use an Intel iMac.
This is kinda cool stuff, Awesome...
I have to say, that "Stanley Jordon guitar strum" sound was always my favourite Mac startup tone. It was sharp and snappy, and sounded great despite the limitations of crappy internal speakers. The current one sounds muffled and "slow" when on sub-standard speakers.

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I'm not quite sure but I think sample number 19 in INSIDE.S3M is an edited version of the Mac startup sound. It's significance is that INSIDE.S3M came bundled with Scream Tracker 3, which was the tracker du jour at the time when the first useable cheap PC soundcards began showing up. Before that you could either buy a cheap card that didn't work with half of your programs or shovel a large amount of cash for a Sound Blaster Pro. I'm willing to bet editing inside.s3m in ST3 was the first contact to music production for many of the ace producers of the near future. Sure as hell was mine, anyway. :)
This is why the Macbook Air will flop and follow in the path of other Apple products that flopped.

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This is amazing. Two weeks ago I mentioned to my partner that I accidently discovered the hidden meaning behind the mac startup
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For Everyone's informartion, it is an F# Chord. We were Bored in music theory and decided to decipher the chord. It's an F# chord. The F# in the bass is what gives the vibrating effect
some time ago i noticed that this mp3 sounded one semitone above the chord that i remembered (yes, i have a nice pitch memory). Today I've just confirmed my suspicions by putting the laptop in which i'm writing this comment next to my old G4 and near a helpful Casio Pt-1 toy keyboard. It's an F# chord, and the one in your mp3 is a G.

Maybe it's because I am in Europe and here the utility frequency is 50hz. In the US it's 60hz. I've never had the chance to listen to the mac startup sound on a computer plugged into 60hz AC, so I don't know if in America the mac chime is a G instead of a F#... So, if anyone in the US has a minute, a Mac and a piano... :)
The Beatles Post.

The pun is hinting at something throughout history hidden in all forms of art. If you look for the hints, there is reference pointing towards a time where the full potential of humanity will become whole again.

Imagine if one day everybody on earth was to become equal. A day where unconditional love was unanimous. A day where nobody needed to die any longer. You have to use your imagination to grasp this which means dropping all of your preconditioned assumptions about this world we live in because like ourselves it isn't perfect, yet...
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 8:02 AM:

Me too!
Regarding the Beatles comments...

"A Day In the Life" ends with an E major chord, so the startup chord of the Mac is definitely not this one.

E major is considered in Western music to have heavenly connotations, which would have made it a great choice for Mac, IMHO!
Too bad it isn't an A major chord (A for Apple). That would have been a good tweak of the Day in the Life ending chord. The Mac startup chord was in Wall-E as well. It's iconic now, and I'd hate to see it change. When Steve Jobs dies, it will remind us of his era.
New macs with AC97 and software run type audio controllers that rely on external clock sources could be the answer. The chip needs to be calibrated against the bus and/or system clock sources to accurately pitch the playback. My guess is that the boot ROM doesn't do this and simply runs with the chips preprogrammed assumption or just a static value and does its best until the real sound driver is loaded by the OS.

The 660AV and 840AV also had dedicated clocks for the onboard AT&T DSPs which handled some audio functions in combination with the "Singer" audio codec. AWACS, "Screamer" and ASC were all hardware audio codecs, newer systems use software codecs with the exception of the G5 towers and the Mac Pros.
I had no idea that this was the story with the start up sounds on Mac. It sucks that you can't change the sound to your own liking. I'd get some star trek sound or something. :)
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