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Current Mac startup chime receives trademark from USPTO

updated 06:06 pm EST, Wed December 12, 2012

Apple used various sounds over years, latest from 1999

While musical notes themselves cannot be patented, a combination of notes and realization of them that form a distinct and recognizable sound can be -- and the US Patent and Trademark Office has now officially granted a registered trademark to Apple for the current (and in use since 1999) startup chime. The sound turns out to be a slightly flat G flat/F sharp combination, according to the trademark application Apple filed in June, as noted by Patently Apple.

The sound was created by Apple programmer Jim Reekes, who has created many of the chimes heard over the years. Musicians such as guitarist Stanley Jordan and producer Brian Eno have been involved in the creation of startup sounds, which they say are actually quite complex compositions despite their brevity -- because the companies creating them want the sound to evoke a number of emotions and mental images, while still being incredibly short. Eno, who described his Windows 95 startup as "a little jewel" that needed 84 drafts before it was accomplished, claimed that Microsoft had sent a list of "about 150" adjectives, ranging from "futuristic" and "optimistic" to "sexy." He was also limited to no more than 3.8 seconds. Mac startup chimes are generally much shorter still.

Stanley Jordan once told an interviewer that he spent a whole day in a studio before hitting on the chord that would become the signature sound of the Power Mac 6100 and other Mac models released in 1994 and 1995. Jordan, who popularized "tapping" notes directly from the fret as a guitar technique, used a 12-string acoustic guitar tuned in all-fourths to create the sound, which was used for around a year before reverting back to the previous Reekes composition.

In addition to its original function of letting users know that the audio system was working, startup chimes have also been used on Macs to indicate that RAM has been checked, and an off-key sound signifies that there is a issue preventing startup (such as lack of RAM or a hardware failure). The trademark is in the form of a "sensory mark" rather than a traditional trademark due to its musical nature.



By Electronista Staff
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  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    "G Flat/F sharp combination". Heh.

    Sounds like a really complex harmony. :lol:

    (not knocking the act of sound design, but just the author of this news blurb)

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Cracked me up as well. :lol:

  1. apostle

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-16-08

    Personally I find the Mac startup chime very irritating. If I leave the audio "muted" when I turn off the Mac I find I can avoid the "startup chime" altogether.

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Originally Posted by apostleView Post

    Personally I find the Mac startup chime very irritating. If I leave the audio "muted" when I turn off the Mac I find I can avoid the "startup chime" altogether.

    Then ur like me, it's scares you doesn't it? The Quadra had a more smoother chime; one I can tolerate.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    I prefer the heavier tone of current machines over the quadra/performa "Plingggg".

    Or give me an old 68000 beep. :)

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    Originally Posted by apostleView Post

    Personally I find the Mac startup chime very irritating. If I leave the audio "muted" when I turn off the Mac I find I can avoid the "startup chime" altogether.



    There are quite a few utilities that can silence your Mac's startup chime (or alter it's volume) so you don't have to fiddle with your speakers.

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Originally Posted by cgcView Post


    There are quite a few utilities that can silence your Mac's startup chime (or alter it's volume) so you don't have to fiddle with your speakers.

    I know in the older macs you can go into OF (spare me the key combo, thanks) and meddle with this and many other sorts. I heard you aren't allowed access to the programmer's "button" so to speak as of... introduction of unibody macs?

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    I prefer the heavier tone of current machines over the quadra/performa "Plingggg".
    Or give me an old 68000 beep. :)

    Hey Spheric, you gonna want that matrix printer back??... I just gotta print a few more ascii pics and I'll hand it back to you. Oh, and sorry about the ribbon. I decided to replace it with cat guts; I inked & primed it for ya... you don't mind right? I mean if they can use it for violins.... I'm all for durability

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Don't bother. I still have the ImageWriter II to go with my Macintosh SE. Sadly, no sheet feeder assembly (which I used I own back in the day). Both complete in original packaging, with all documentation.

    And WTF ASCII? Macintosh was all about WYSIWYG at 72 DPI, dude.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by blahblahbberView Post

    [QUOTE=cgc;4206459]
    There are quite a few utilities that can silence your Mac's startup chime (or alter it's volume) so you don't have to fiddle with your speakers.

    I know in the older macs you can go into OF (spare me the key combo, thanks) and meddle with this and many other sorts. I heard you aren't allowed access to the programmer's "button" so to speak as of... introduction of unibody macs?[/quote]

    This is not a firmware function. Startup chime volume is saved in the PRAM, afaik. The utilities are really simple single-purpose scripts that simple change the startup chime volume. No hacking.

  1. cgc

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 03-25-03

    Originally Posted by blahblahbberView Post

    I know in the older macs you can go into OF (spare me the key combo, thanks) and meddle with this and many other sorts. I heard you aren't allowed access to the programmer's "button" so to speak as of... introduction of unibody macs?



    My G4 Sawtooth Mac and my MacPro both have nearly silenced startup chimes via software. Works like a champ...

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    Don't bother. I still have the ImageWriter II to go with my Macintosh SE. Sadly, no sheet feeder assembly (which I used I own back in the day). Both complete in original packaging, with all documentation.
    And WTF ASCII? Macintosh was all about WYSIWYG at 72 DPI, dude.

    yeah, just threw in ASCII whether it makes sense or not.... don't really know what else them printers are good for nowadays except to use carbon-copy-featured substrates.

  1. Patrick

    Mac Elite

    Joined: 02-13-99

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post


    This is not a firmware function. Startup chime volume is saved in the PRAM, afaik. The utilities are really simple single-purpose scripts that simple change the startup chime volume. No hacking.



    Yup. Unless they've changed it since I got my iMac, the startup chime volume is the same value as the master volume setting. The script probably just mutes the volume before shutdown, and changes it back once the startup items are run.

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Originally Posted by PatrickView Post


    Yup. Unless they've changed it since I got my iMac, the startup chime volume is the same value as the master volume setting. The script probably just mutes the volume before shutdown, and changes it back once the startup items are run.

    That's what I thought.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    I'm pretty sure there is actually a separate setting; it's just not user-accessible.

    Not that it really matters.

  1. blahblahbber

    Banned

    Joined: 02-01-05

    Originally Posted by Spheric HarlotView Post

    I'm pretty sure there is actually a separate setting; it's just not user-accessible.
    Not that it really matters.

    you can always check the console and find out I think.

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