In 1990, during the development of the new Macintosh operating system software, System 7, Apple Computers was being sued by Beatles’ Apple Corps.
The two Apples had an agreement that stated that Apple Computer was prohibited from entering the music market and were again battling in court after the introduction of the Apple IIgs, which had MIDI capabilities. This meant that any new work on audio features was closely reviewed by Apple’s legal department.
One of the new features of System 7 was a new Sound Manager, which replaced the older APIs and, among other things allowed higher quality playback of audio.
One night Jim Reekes, the engineer who managed the develoment of audio on the Mac from 1990 to 1999 and, among other things*, created the startup chord, found out that one of the new system alert sounds he created** for System 7 was problematic. It was deemed “too musical” because of its name, Xylophone, and had to be renamed.
Reekes, appalled, initially joked that he would call it “Let it bleep”, a jab at both Apple Corps and Apple’s lawyers. When, after some laughter, it was made clear to the engineer that the pun would not be appropriate, Reekes quipped “so sue me”. After a brief reflection, with the help of Sheila Brady, the person in charge of the System 7 disks, Reekes resubmitted the sound’s name to the legal department as “sosumi”.
The two of them were very careful not to pronounce it and concocted some fake story that the word was Japanese, and meant “the absence of sound”.
Somehow the choice was approved and the (non) sound has been included in all subsequent versions of the System, Mac OS, and even Mac OS X. Moreso its story has become a beloved part of Apple folklore, to the point that the legal fine print for products on the www.apple.com website is currently marked with the CSS class name “sosumi”.
By the way, in 2007, the two Apples put an end to the ongoing trademark lawsuit entering an agreement under which Apple Inc. owns “all of the trademarks related to “Apple” and licenses “certain of those trademarks back to Apple Corps for their continued use”.
* Reekes also created the Mac and iPhone Camera/Screenshot Sound, which is actually recording of an old Canon AE-1 from the late ’70s.
** According to some sources, the Xylophone/Sosumi sound was actually “borrowed” from a third party Macintosh video game, Crystal Quest.
Jim Reekes’s picture is from the BoingBoing website.
When, at the end of August 2004, Apple introduced the new iMac G5, Philip Schiller, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, stated that “A lot of people will be wondering ‘where did the computer go?’”.
With the entire system fused with the display in a design only two inches thick, the new iMac was in fact a masterpiece of technological miniaturization. But it not only totally removed the main processing unit from the user’s view, it also packed in less space more power than the preceding G4-based generation, blurring even more the line between professional and consumer products. (more…)
If you love Apple’s history and want more there’s another resource: the brand new and official account of Stories of Apple on Tumblr.
As stated in the description, it’s a [svelte and visual] companion to the articles and posts published on www.storiesofapple.net.
You’ll find shortish quotes, memorable images and assorted tidbits from Apple’s history, taken not only from the Stories of Apple/Storie di Apple websites but also from other notable sources online, among which are people who are or have been working at Apple and have interesting facts and memories to share.
So follow the tumblr (it’s free), read, enjoy and reblog!
I seldom post videos, but yesterday I had the pleasure to view a presentation that anyone using Macintoshes (or digital devices) simply must see.
It’s called Susan Kare, Iconographer and it’s a video from the EG Conference starring Susan Kare, the artist who, in the early 80s, conceived and drew much of the initial iconography for the “computer for the rest of us”.
Introduced in March 1987, the Macintoh II was the ultimate Mac for professionals. Based on the new 68020 processor, it was the first 32-bit Mac (although it was not “32-bit clean), it had six Nubus expansion slots and was the first Mac with color capabilities, capable of handling up to 16.7 million colors. It was the perfect machine to professionally create, manage and edit audio, photos and moving images.
Apple was eager to show off the graphics prowess of their Macintosh II line of computers.
To do this they put together a short, three minute, computer-animated film, titled “Pencil Test”, which was premiered at the SIGGRAPH 88 international trade show, and was widely distributed on the QuickTime 1.0 CD.
The plot sees a pencil tool escaping from a Mac screen to (comically) explore the richness and three dimensionality of “real” objects only to desperately try and return to its pixellated world.
“Pencil Test” was entirely created on a Mac II (some say actually a Mac IIx, but the dates don’t match), by a group of talented artists (more on this later) working with Apple’s Advanced Technology Graphics Group. (more…)