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15 Old Computer Sounds That Will Take You Right Back

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YouTube / SataiDelenn

Those of us who were really hip in the '90s got online, usually via a dialup modem (or your college's awesome network...if you could afford a network card). There were distinct sounds associated with computers of that time that we don't think about today, but they're lodged deep in our memories. Let's go back to some computer sounds you probably haven't heard in decades.

1. 56K MODEM CONNECTING

Modem connection sounds varied based on speed, modem brand, the quality of the connection, and so on. But today, the 56k modem (the pinnacle of modem technology in the '90s) is the best-remembered "modem screech." My friend's mom called this sound "wirescream," which sounds accurate to me. So here's a 56k modem dialing and connecting (illustrated with a little guy acting as the modem):

2. 3.5" FLOPPY DRIVE SOUND

If you ever installed software or copied a lot of files, you heard this.

3. "YOU'VE GOT MAIL" (AOL)

Sound courtesy of: AOL SoundBoard.

Aside from being a romantic comedy (ancient, Flash-using, 1998 website here), the "You've got mail" sound was familiar to all AOL users. It was voiced by Elwood Edwards, recorded on a cassette deck in his living room. (These days, Edwards drives for Uber in Ohio.)

4. WINDOWS 3.1 STARTUP SOUND

Sound courtesy of WinHistory.

Tada! Just one second long. Because back in my day, we couldn't afford the disk space for fancier sounds.

5. WINDOWS 95 STARTUP SOUND

Microsoft commissioned musician/producer Brian Eno to create the Windows 95 startup sound. The result is a masterpiece.

6. MAC STARTUP/CRASH SOUNDS

If you had a Mac in the '90s, you'd hear a startup chime, and hopefully you didn't hear the crash sound too often (we used to call it "MacDeath" at my high school). It's surprising how different the startup sounds were, especially the AV model Macs (which had special audio/video hardware, hence the fancy sound):

7. ICQ MESSAGE SOUND

Sound courtesy of WavThis.

ICQ was a chat application that I used a lot in college in the late 90s. You'd hear this "Uh-oh!" for new messages.

8. WINDOWS 98 (SE) STARTUP SOUND

Sound courtesy of WinHistory.

This is smooth, but I still prefer the Windows 95 startup sound. It's just a classic.

9. QSOUND DEMO

QSound was a 3D-like effect that was used in games and sound production in tons of '90s stuff (for instance, Madonna's Immaculate Collection was "mixed in QSound"). Here's a demo video showing various places QSound showed up—it sounds best with headphones.

10. THE HAMPSTER DANCE [SIC]

This is best experienced on an archive of the original Hampster Dance website. But if your browser doesn't like that site, the video below is a loose approximation of the late-'90s phenomenon known as Hampster Dance. Let the gates of memory open.

(And yes, the spelling "Hampster" is intentionally incorrect.)

11. DOT MATRIX PRINTER

If you had a hand-me-down printer in the 90s (or you needed a receipt printed on carbon paper), this is what it sounded like...if you were lucky! My family's original dot matrix printer sounded like a malfunctioning robot on a murder spree.

12. A 1993 PC AND INKJET PRINTER STARTING UP

I've reported on this before. Listen for the POST (Power On Self Test) beep, the chittering of the hard drive, then the horrific clunking noises of the Epson Stylus 440. If you're wondering how a 1993 computer is running Windows 95, it's because this computer is still running today!

13. AOL INSTANT MESSENGER (AIM) BUDDY SOUNDS

When your AIM buddies signed on, a door opened:

When they signed off, the door closed (so sad):

Sounds courtesy of: AOL SoundBoard.

14. FLYING TOASTERS SCREENSAVER

After Dark offered some of the best screensavers around. "Flying Toasters" was my favorite, and it had an optional score, complete with lyrics at the bottom.

For more, see 10 Screensavers of Yore.

15. GOODBYE (AOL)

Sound courtesy of: AOL SoundBoard.

As it was and ever shall be. Goodbye, AOL.

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Kano
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Control the World With a Wave of Your Hand Using This $30 Motion Sensor
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Kano

"Learn to code" is all the rage in kids' toys—even those aimed at preschoolers. As educational toys go, though, Kano's are pretty fun. Earlier this summer, Kano released the Lite Brite-esque Pixel Kit, an LED board that kids (or anyone, really) can program to change and visualize information using the coding tutorials on the Kano desktop app. Now, the company has come out with a stand-alone motion sensor that allows you to see the impact of your code with a wave of the hand.

The $30 sensor kit is only a little bigger than a 50-cent piece, and set-up is as easy as attaching two pieces to a USB port and plugging the cable into a computer. The Kano app will show you what to do next, walking you through a series of "challenges" that hold your hand through the process of coding the sensor to change what you see within the app, whether it's changing the color of an image or playing a virtual game of Pong by waving your hand in front of your computer. The sensor can register three axes of movement, so that you can control different actions by moving your hand left-right, up-down, and forward-backward.

A blue Kano booklet of instructions sits next to a small blue sensor that looks like a periscope.
Kano

The tutorials vary from the very simple (make an arrow rotate according to gestures) to the slightly more involved (build a Pong game). But all of them are made extremely simple with drag-and-drop blocks of JavaScript code, step-by-step instructions, and highlights on the correct choices. If you put your code in the wrong place, the tutorial won't move on. No matter what your real level of understanding of the underlying code, you're going to build that Pong game. Hopefully, you'll pick up a few tricks on the way, though, which will eventually allow you to build your own games.

The motion sensor kit is the most accessible of Kano's products, both in terms of its price (the Pixel Kit is $80 compared to the motion sensor's $30) and the number of things you can do with it. The gesture-based controller can be used to play games, make moving art, or control music. You don't have to have any other Kano equipment, but if you do, you can plug it into other kits to make, say, a motion-activated Pixel Kit light show.

You can buy the Motion Sensor Kit on Kano's website starting today.

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Meet the 17-Year-Old World Champion of Excel Spreadsheets
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If you spend hours creating spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel for your office job, that work may one day pay off. The Excel World Championship recently awarded its winner a $7000 prize for demonstrating his “skills and creativity” while completing a series of tasks in the program. But the new champion doesn’t come from the professional world—he’s a student at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Virginia.

As the New York Post reports, John Dumoulin has won a total of $10,000 in prize money for his Excel expertise. He first discovered his talent when he took a Microsoft Excel 16 certification exam for an IT class at his high school. His score was the highest in the state and it qualified him to join other spreadsheet aficionados at a national competition in Orlando, Florida.

After snagging the $3000 cash prize at that event, he moved on to compete with pros from around the world at the Microsoft Excel World Championship in Anaheim, California. The competition included 150 participants from 49 countries. Never in its history has an American taken home the grand prize, but this year Dumoulin became the first.

The teenager first became acquainted with Excel in middle school, when he made spreadsheets to track the performance of his favorite baseball team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. He told the Associated Press that he’d like to one day make a career out of doing data analytics for baseball teams. For now, his focus is on graduating from high school.

[h/t New York Post]

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