The Microsoft Sound

“We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, […] optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional […] and it must be ​3 ¼ seconds long.”

Brian Eno
How We Get To Next [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
When the Windows 95 was being created, the designers needed a startup sound to welcome people to this new and (they hoped) universally popular operating system. The sound would be heard by millions of people every day. High stakes! So they wrote the brief described above, and gave it to Brian Eno.

Eno… you know, I’m not even going to try to summarise his contribution to music. Some highlights: Roxy Music, ambient music, generative music, the Long Now Foundation, and Oblique Strategies (my favourite, and something that I’ll write about another time). He took this impossible brief and made 84 different pieces of music. Of those 84, the final piece was six seconds long, and if you started up a PC in the late 1990s you have probably heard it already.

And, of course, Brian Eno composed it on a Mac.


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