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Beware the Mac Chimes of Death

Warning: Some people may find the sounds in the linked article alarming, or even traumatizing. Please prepare yourself emotionally by remembering that, even when Macs made these sounds, no actual hardware damage occurred. If you feel your heart racing and your stomach sinking, well, that’s to be expected.

I’ve never had occasion to write a trigger warning for a TidBITS article before, much less an ExtraBIT that points to someone else’s article, but Stephen Hackett’s Mac Chimes of Death piece on 512 Pixels deserves one. It provides clips of the sounds that various classic Mac models played when they were unable to boot. I didn’t think much about it when I played the first one, but by the end—and thanks particularly to the terrifying car crash sound made by the Power Mac 6100—my heart was palpitating. That said, I quite liked the ominous Performa chime of death, which I had never heard before. These clips may start you on a simple walk down memory lane, but watch out for the flashbacks.

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Comments About Beware the Mac Chimes of Death

Notable Replies

  1. If you have the MacTracker app, you can listen to each model’s chimes.

    Click on a device’s icon (upper left corner of its info window) to hear its startup chime and option-click the icon to hear its death chime.

    The iOS version has the startup chimes in the same place. I don’t know how to play the death chimes from the iOS app, however.

  2. Sometime circa 1993, my Powerbook Duo 210 started a campaign to turn me prematurely gray (it worked). Lots of hardware problems that no one could ever seem to solve. What stands out in my memory is when I was working in my apartment late one night, alone. I turned on my PowerBook and … well, it closely resembled the Macintosh LC sound from the linked page. I’d never heard of the chimes of death before, had no idea what was going on, and was thoroughly creeped out.

    I’m just glad it wasn’t the car crash sound. That was just plain sadistic!

  3. My first Mac, a Performa 450 emitted its Chime of Death a few days before I was due to read one of my scribbles at Lancaster’s Spotlight club (UK). There was an emptiness and coldness in my stomach which felt like death itself! I put it into a rucsac, took the train and taxi to the firm where I bought it and waited an hour. They had the first iMacs on display. They advised that I could send the hard drive to a company in London to recover everything but it might not work and it would cost about £300. I didn’t have that to spare. I asked them to reinstall System 7.1 and the basic software including the much missed ClarisWorks (wasn’t that a wonderfully simple integrated software?)
    I got a bus back to the railway station and the train to Lancaster. Whatever I had written for Spotlight that week was gone. I wrote something else altogether and in my heart I know it was nowhere as good as what I had composed originally.
    Despite subsequent computer deaths, I have never experienced that same emptiness and coldness and hope I never do.

  4. I’ve used Mactracker for years, and I never knew that! Thank you.

  5. GV

    Unfortunately, I remember all too well the sound a Performa 6300 made as it expires. . .

    I got my first Mac in 1995, a Performa 6300. I had nothing but problems with it and it didn’t help that I knew almost nothing about using a personal computer. After a few months of seemingly daily crashes, I convinced the local computer store to accept its return, albeit with around 5% deducted from my refund. I happily paid the money since I just wanted to be rid of the thing.

    I waited 2 years before getting my next Mac (using that time to learn more about them. . .) which was a PowerMac 7300. Exactly two months later the PowerMac G3 came out. That’s when I learned about keeping an eye on Mac product plans when considering getting a new Mac.

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