I like charm. It is one of the best feelings in the world to be charmed by something. Whether it’s a cute character design or a little sound effect, something charming can easily make my day. Now, where can charm easily be seen?
Old computers, of course!
Before a computer was a given to have in the house, they just seemed like they had more personality to them. This was easily seen in the operating systems that they ran, and no OS is more recognizable than Microsoft Windows. Each version has had a different startup jingle that would stay in impressionable children’s ears for many years. A compilation of these was uploaded to YouTube by TheNathanNS.
Of course, sound effects have to start somewhere, and Windows 3.1 had a simple sound effect that played when it was booted up. It was a simple “Ta-da!” sound effect that never fails to crack me up. I always imagine something failing before it randomly plays in my head, like a quarterback throwing an interception or a table breaking. I’m not sure why, but it’s just funny.
The next version of the OS, Windows 95, also had a memorable sound. Rather than a simple sound effect, it had a full six second song composed by music producing legend Brian Eno.
I remember hearing that song and seeing that startup screen in Kindergarten on a huge monitor that resembled a TV.
It stuck in my mind for years. Graceful would be the word I’d use to describe it. The song just sounds so otherworldly that at the time, you could’ve only heard it on a futuristic computer.
The next installment, Windows 98, also had a memorable tune. While I prefer the Eno piece, this also sounds like it deserves to be on your computer. I’m not even sure what else to say, it just sounds cool. I’m not that familiar with Windows 98 or its backstory, sorry.
It’s the same story with Windows NT, 2000, and ME (I didn’t even know they existed until recently), although their startup sounds are also pretty cool.
One version that I am very familiar with, however, is Windows XP. I grew up with it in my home, my school, and several other places. So naturally, I know its startup jingle by memory. Its piano melody combined with the subtle ambience made my PC seem alive. The aesthetic of Windows XP was also very memorable, with the blue boxes and the green start button. It felt very much like a natural successor to 95 and 98 (I never hear anyone talk about 2000 or ME, so I won’t here).
Unfortunately, this was about the time where charm in computers began to fade away. They drifted away from being a small cult-like fascination and something that’d you only see rarely to something that you saw everywhere. So naturally, they began to feel more mechanical. Windows Vista and 7 began this trend of blandness with a three second startup jingle. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds nice, but do you honestly remember it long-term? Does it stand out as much as 95 and XP? I know that it may be nostalgia talking, but something about those jingles is just much more appealing than the newer startups.
Don’t get me wrong, functionality should go above charm when you’re talking about a computer (I use a MacBook today and it’s the most mechanical thing I own), but charm just made computers seem much cooler. The feeling that the teams were smaller back then makes it feel all the better, because there was more passion put into Windows (not that there isn’t today). Sometimes, a very short song was all you needed to make your computer all the more personal.
Thanks for reading, and if you wish, you could consider listening to this week’s awesome playlist. And please consider getting your daily fascinating reads at Mid-American Culture in the future!