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Sounding Off

It’s too bad more Macintosh users don’t know how to play with sounds, because manipulating sounds using the Macintosh, while it may not help your company rake in the profits, can provide hours of entertainment, not to mention the occasional practical joke. Back in the old days I shared a student office with five other Cornellians and one Mac Plus. Two colleagues were named Dave, so we had fun rigging the Mac to beep, "I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that." Later we set up the Mac to say, "Stop smoking, Patti," but that’s a different story. At any rate, Craig O’Donnell’s Cool Mac Sounds ($19.95, Hayden Books, ISBN 0-672-48253-0) offers a welcome introduction to Macintosh sounds.

Craig lives in the world of sounds, and his book has an informal yet knowledgeable tone to it, as though he sat down one rainy Sunday afternoon and knocked off most of the rough draft. He has a fun way of succinctly expressing complicated topics: "In Resource City, resources are urbanites. Sound resources congregate inside structures – applications, stacks, and files. They’re a busy bunch: When the System calls, resources respond, shoveling data bytes to the speaker to create a… sound."

Cool Mac Sounds comes with a high-density floppy disk that contains sounds and software to get you started. Some of the software lets you work directly with the sounds; other programs use the sounds in various ways (like an alarm program). Craig explains how to use all of the software on the disk and how to use some software not included on the disk.

The book starts with the basics: installing Arrgh – which makes random screaming noises, and MacPuke – the Mac makes retching noises when ejecting disks, though this didn’t work with my PowerBook 100 floppy drive. Once you pass this juvenile stuff (a necessary phase, perhaps) Craig moves on to extensions that use sounds in some way, and continues on until he fulfils the early promise that the reader will "know enough to work creatively with sounds in HyperCard and to prepare sound clips to use in Apple’s new QuickTime." (If you were wondering, Craig assumes you use System 6.0.7, 6.0.8, 7.0, or 7.0.1.)

Craig explains the basic technical details about sound – wave forms, the difference between digital and analog, what you need to know about sampling, voltage, kilohertz, and the like. Craig tells it like it is with easily understood explanations and advice like, "Only dweebs call it digitized sound. Graphics are digitized – sounds are sampled. Got it? Good."

Cool Mac Sounds has a chapter packed with information about what kinds of sounds the different Macintosh models put out, whether their internal speakers do mono or stereo sound, and how to attach each and every Macintosh (before Oct-92 Macs) to an external speaker and to headphones, complete with Radio Shack part numbers. Craig also briefly reviews several speakers that might be useful with the Macintosh. This information is hard to find, so those who need it will be glad for it.

After providing sound tips and talking about more sophisticated software, Cool Mac Sounds winds down with "Cool Solutions to Uncool Problems." This chapter offers solutions to problems such as being unable to play System 7 sounds when double-clicking them; getting error -230 when opening the Sound CDEV; the Plus, SE, and Classic buzzing "like a bandsaw" when playing long sounds; and why the PowerBook makes a snapping sound. If you want to know the answers, you’ll have to buy the book.

Cool Mac Sounds is mandatory reading for any Macintosh user who always knew the Mac was supposed to be more fun than "other" computers, but never quite figured out why. It’s also mandatory reading for anyone working the floor of an Apple dealership since sounds are one of the coolest parts of the Mac. For those of us who have figured out why the Macintosh is fun but never figured out the basic subtleties of using sounds, the book is definitely recommended. Cool Mac Sounds could also be used as a terrific textbook. Although some chapters aren’t appropriate, I see a class of sixth graders having a blast with much of the software and ideas in the book.

Hayden Books — 800/428-5331 (orders) — 317/573-2500
317/573-2583 (fax)

Information from:
Craig O’Donnell — [email protected]

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