The Windows XP startup sound is etched forever in my mind, those tinkling bells that bring back memories of AIM, Civilization IIIand endless hours trying to download music through Napster and Kazaa, followed by endless hours trying to remove viruses I accidentally downloaded through Napster and Kazaa.
The sounds of Windows are as much a part of computing history as anything else you can find, and the twenty thousand hertz podcast is doing a two part series on the history of the startup jingle. It begins before computers could even have startup sounds, and traces its evolution through composers like Brian Eno and musicians like Robert Fripp and the Seattle Symphony. The first episode is out now, and it’s a good listen and a fun time capsule. You’ll immediately know when you started using computers as soon as you hear the correct startup sound.
The program also argues that startup sounds are more than just startup sounds. You can tell a lot about the state of the technology by the fidelity of the audio; you can understand how a company viewed its products by the vibe it was trying to communicate, and you can hear computers go from sci-fi funk to everyday reality. Windows 98’s sound even transforms from mono to stereo, as if to say, “Look what we can do now!”
In case you’re feeling more nostalgic, here’s a great video of each Windows startup and shutdown sound, one after another. (And don’t miss Slow motion releases from Microsoft of them, or the a cappella group that is awfully good at imitating them.)
Some are definitely better than others, but the real lesson here is that you need a startup sound. Windows 8 had none and you know how Windows 8 turned out.
twenty thousand hertz has done a few tech-related episodes before, watching Netflix’s “ta-dum” soundthe xbox startup soundY The unusual sound effects of Minecraft. But nothing brings me back like Windows XP.