Mac Chimes of Death - the sounds when boot fails

What an odd collection of sounds: the earlier melodious ones do not, to me, sound like any kind of failure. But the much later ones are too quirky by far, to my ears:

Mac Chimes of Death – 512 Pixels


I dunno, that Performa serial-cliffhanger-style descending chords is pretty great, I think!

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Were I ever to design firmware I would insist on


The Mac II chime and the first half of the Mac LC chime have become a classic elevator/lift sound. If I’m not mislead, I’ve also heard the second half of the LC chime used to indicate arrival of said vertical transportation device. – Is this the computer ascending to Mac-heaven? :wink:

You’ve just reminded me of a short TV piece on ‘earcons’ - the idea, at the time a futuristic one, that there might be recognisable mini-sounds in our world, in the same way that there are recognisable mini-pictures (and I’m thinking of signs for exits, toilets, road signs and so on - I would place this idea as being before the PC and before the popular GUI.)

And indeed, there are now such sounds! Most commonly heard, the various sounds about the arrival of a message. (See also this short comedic video clip.)

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Of those the Power Mac is the only one that would immediately say “Something is wrong” to me but it’s definitely quirky as you say.

I found this video which includes the startup chimes as well.

Every Mac Startup & Crash Chime - YouTube

It’s interesting that the crash sound is longer than the startup sound. I would have expected that to be the other way around. I would also expect the crash sound to be deeper.

I guess, Brian Eno would have been a prime suspect for designing our common soundscapes.
(Compare sounds for Windows95 and Nokia.)
Earned badge “audio architect”.

That said, a few sophisticated Brian Ferry intros wouldn’t have been too bad, either.

I believe, the early Macs had distinctive crash chimes (out of tune chords) for various failure modes. Maybe, there’s variation to these longer tunes indicating where it failed and what might be wrong, which may explain the extra length.

That would make sense although I can see that being a bit annoying to use. Need to have a good ear.

Field tech/help desk: “Did you say it went down with DEE-DAH-DUM or DEE-DAH-DAH-DUM?”

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