In the late 1980s Jim Reekes began working as a sound designer for Apple, creating some of the Mac's most iconic sounds like the "Sosumi" beep, startup chord, and camera/screenshot click. In a new interview with CNBC, Reekes discussed the origins behind each of these sound creations, and what he thinks about the current audio design of Apple devices. Reekes has touched upon these topics before, but they remain interesting for anyone who might not have heard about this part of Apple's history.

Reekes explained that the reason for the name "Sosumi" began with a lawsuit from The Beatles' record label, also named Apple. At the time, Steve Jobs promised that his company would stay focused on computers and not get involved with music, so that the two similarly named companies could coexist.

mac sound sosumi 2
After Macs added support for audio recording and MIDI (a standard that connects musical instruments to computers), The Beatles sued and forced Reekes to rename any sound effect that had a "musical-sounding name."

Reekes' frustration with the lawsuit eventually led him to the name "Sosumi," because it sounded like "so sue me." Today, Sosumi is still available as an alert sound in the Mac System Preferences.

One of his beeps, originally called "Xylophone," needed a new name. "I actually said I'm gonna call it 'let it beep' and of course you can't do anything like that, but I thought yeah, 'so sue me.' And then I thought that's actually the right name," Reekes said. "I'll just have to spell it funny, so I spelled it Sosumi."

He told the lawyers it was a Japanese word that didn't mean anything musical. "That's how that Sosumi beep came around," Reekes explained. "It was really me making fun of lawyers."

Reekes also looked back on the Mac's original startup tone, which annoyed him "immensely" because the Mac crashed so many times that it was easy to equate the tone with a frustrating situation. Although he didn't have permission to change it, he recorded a new c-major chord in his living room and used The Beatles song "A Day in the Life" as inspiration.

cnbc jim reekes

Jim Reekes and the keyboard he used to record the original Mac startup sound via CNBC

Eventually, Reekes managed to sneak the sound into the original Macintosh Quadra computer.

Some engineers at Apple were not happy with the change. "Our excuse was it's too risky to take it back out at this point because something could crash," he said. "We just made up some bulls---."

It stuck, and years later Apple even trademarked the start-up sound. It's one of the few sounds that's trademarked, along with the NBC chimes and the Intel signature sound. "Kind of silly right?" Reekes smirked. "I'm playing a c-major chord and it's famous and it's a copyright."

On the topic of startup sounds, Reekes voiced his disappointment in the lack of any startup chimes on most Macs today, and gave his opinion on the company's current overall sound design. "I haven't really seen much interesting audio coming out of Apple for a while," he said. Reekes left Apple in the late 1990s and is now a consultant and "out of the sound design business."


There are plenty of other tidbits from Apple's sound design history in the interview, including the origins of the camera click heard on Mac screenshots and in the iPhone's camera app, taken from Reekes' old 1970s Canon AE-1. To read more from the interview, visit CNBC's website.

Top Rated Comments

Relentless Power Avatar
42 months ago
Interesting article. As strange as it sounds, The Mac start up tone makes me think of Jobs days and its a classic tone of where the Mac was during Apples early years.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
macaddict06 Avatar
42 months ago
The problem I have with Apple now is their products lack heart. The little tiny details (like the startup sound) were what Steve obsessed over and gave the products personality.

The exclusion of the startup chime in new Macs took them from a part of your life to a machine you use when you need it.

Bring back the heart, Apple. Make the machines mean something to people.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
idunn Avatar
42 months ago
On the topic of startup sounds, Reekes voiced his disappointment in the lack of any startup chimes on most Macs today ('https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202768')
I quite agree.

But principally I wished to chime in with an explicit thank you to Jim Reekes. His inspiration and work have added immeasurably to my experience with Apple products. Definitely, thank you.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
coolfactor Avatar
42 months ago
Enjoy!



I guess my early Macs rarely crashed, because I only recall hearing that crash sound once.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonblatho Avatar
42 months ago
I’m not sure if he’s heard the watchOS sound effects. I think they’re beautifully done.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avieshek Avatar
42 months ago
What I love & miss the most, is the original iPhone 4s lock-unlock sound effect. It felt so real than digitised or artificial or second version of anything for the feeling.

It was the skeumorphism of sound.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

apple watch 6s 202009

Bloomberg: Apple Watch Series 7 to Feature Thinner Screen Bezels, Faster Processor, and Updated Ultra Wideband Tech

Monday June 14, 2021 3:41 am PDT by
This year's Apple Watch Series 7 is likely to have thinner display bezels and use a new lamination technique that brings the display closer to the front cover, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. From the report: The Cupertino, California-based tech giant is planning to refresh the line this year -- with a model likely dubbed the Apple Watch Series 7 -- by adding a faster processor,...
m1 imac back

Some M1 iMac Models Shipping With Crooked Mountings

Monday June 14, 2021 12:50 pm PDT by
Some M1 iMacs appear to have a manufacturing defect that causes the display to be mounted on the stand in a way that's not perfectly aligned, leading to a crooked display. YouTuber iPhonedo over the weekend published a review of the M1 iMac, and he found that his machine appeared to be tilted on one side, a mounting disparity that was visibly noticeable and proved with a ruler. Another...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
16 inch macbook pro m2 render

When Can We Expect the Redesigned MacBook Pros Now?

Wednesday June 16, 2021 7:11 am PDT by
With no sign of redesigned MacBook Pro models at this year's WWDC, when can customers expect the much-anticipated new models to launch? A number of reports, including investor notes from Morgan Stanley and Wedbush analysts, claimed that new MacBook Pro models would be coming during this year's WWDC. This did not happen, much to the disappointment of MacBook Pro fans, who have been...
apple new iphone case colors

Apple Releases New Sunflower, Cloud Blue and Electric Orange iPhone 12 Cases

Monday June 14, 2021 11:12 am PDT by
Apple today released silicone iPhone cases for the iPhone 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, and 12 mini in a series of new colors that include sunflower, cloud blue, and electric orange. Sunflower is a bright yellow shade, cloud blue is a soft, light blue, and electric orange is a bright orange that's darker than the kumquat color and more orange than pink citrus. The new cases are priced starting...
ipad iphone duo ios 12

Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 12.5.4 Security Fix for Older iPhones and iPads

Monday June 14, 2021 10:15 am PDT by
Apple today released new iOS and iPadOS 12.5.4 updates, with the new software aimed at older devices that are unable to run the iOS 14 update that's available on modern devices. The iOS and iPadOS 12.5.4 updates can be downloaded for free and the software is available on all eligible devices over-the-air in the Settings app. To access the new software, go to Settings > General > Software...
files app ipados 15

iPadOS 15: Files App Gains NTFS Support, Progress Indicator, and More

Tuesday June 15, 2021 3:41 am PDT by
Apple in iPadOS 15 has added the ability to access NTFS-formatted media from within the Files app. The additional support for the Windows-related format, first discovered by YouTuber Steven Fjordstrøm, is read-only, so like on macOS you can't modify files stored on NTFS devices, but you can at least copy any data on them for working on elsewhere on your iPad. The Files app has also gotten a...
maxresdefault

Apple CEO Tim Cook: Sideloading Apps Would 'Destroy the Security' of the iPhone

Wednesday June 16, 2021 10:49 am PDT by
Apple CEO Tim Cook this morning participated in a virtual interview at the VivaTech conference, which is described as Europe's biggest startup and tech event. Cook was interviewed by Guillaume Lacroix, CEO and founder of Brut, a media company that creates short-form video content. Much of the discussion centered on privacy, as it often does in interviews that Cook participates in. He...
maxresdefault

Demo: Check Out AirPlay 2 on a Mac in macOS Monterey

Tuesday June 15, 2021 11:57 am PDT by
With macOS Monterey, Apple has introduced expanded AirPlay 2 support, so you can AirPlay content from an iPhone, iPad, or even another Mac to your main Mac. We thought we'd do a quick demo of this handy new feature in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. With AirPlay to Mac, you can extend or mirror an Apple device's display to a Mac, and since ...
nomad airtag wallet card 2

Nomad's Latest Accessory Makes It Easier to Put an AirTag in Your Wallet

Monday June 14, 2021 12:00 pm PDT by
Nomad, known for its range of accessories designed for Apple devices, today announced the Card for AirTag, which is designed to make it easier for an AirTag to fit inside a wallet for tracking purposes. With Card for AirTag, an AirTag fits inside the middle of a card-shaped holder that's then meant to fit inside of a wallet. According to Nomad, the design offers a smooth, uniform shape that...