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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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Google's AI Can Make Its Own AI Now
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Artificial intelligence is advanced enough to do some pretty complicated things: read lips, mimic sounds, analyze photographs of food, and even design beer. Unfortunately, even people who have plenty of coding knowledge might not know how to create the kind of algorithm that can perform these tasks. Google wants to bring the ability to harness artificial intelligence to more people, though, and according to WIRED, it's doing that by teaching machine-learning software to make more machine-learning software.

The project is called AutoML, and it's designed to come up with better machine-learning software than humans can. As algorithms become more important in scientific research, healthcare, and other fields outside the direct scope of robotics and math, the number of people who could benefit from using AI has outstripped the number of people who actually know how to set up a useful machine-learning program. Though computers can do a lot, according to Google, human experts are still needed to do things like preprocess the data, set parameters, and analyze the results. These are tasks that even developers may not have experience in.

The idea behind AutoML is that people who aren't hyper-specialists in the machine-learning field will be able to use AutoML to create their own machine-learning algorithms, without having to do as much legwork. It can also limit the amount of menial labor developers have to do, since the software can do the work of training the resulting neural networks, which often involves a lot of trial and error, as WIRED writes.

Aside from giving robots the ability to turn around and make new robots—somewhere, a novelist is plotting out a dystopian sci-fi story around that idea—it could make machine learning more accessible for people who don't work at Google, too. Companies and academic researchers are already trying to deploy AI to calculate calories based on food photos, find the best way to teach kids, and identify health risks in medical patients. Making it easier to create sophisticated machine-learning programs could lead to even more uses.

[h/t WIRED]

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Who Betrayed Anne Frank? A New Investigation Reopens the Case
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The tale of Anne Frank’s years spent hiding with her family in the secret annex above her father’s warehouse is known around the world. Yet despite years of research by Otto Frank (Anne's father and the only member of her family to survive the Holocaust) and scholars, we still don’t know exactly what circumstances led to Anne and her family’s discovery. A new investigation is reopening the cold case in the hopes of finally finding out the truth, The Guardian reports.

The long-accepted theory of the Franks’ discovery and subsequent arrest is that an anonymous tip to the Sicherheitsdienst, the Nazi intelligence agency, gave their hiding place away. The 30 potential suspects identified over the years have included a warehouse worker, a housekeeper, and a man possibly blackmailing Otto Frank. In December 2016, researchers at the Anne Frank House floated a new theory: The discovery was incidental, the result of a police raid looking for proof of ration fraud at Otto Frank’s factory, in which police just happened to uncover two Jewish families living in secret. However, none of these theories has been proven definitively.

Now, a team of investigators led by a former FBI agent is taking on the cold case, reviewing the archives of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, examining newly declassified material in the U.S. National Archives, and using data analysis to find a conclusive answer to the decades-old mystery.

“This investigation is different from all previous attempts to find the truth,” according to the Cold Case Diary website. “It will be conducted using modern law enforcement investigative techniques. The research team is multidisciplinary, using methods of cold case detectives, historians, but also psychologists, profilers, data analysts, forensic scientists and criminologists.” Thijs Bayens and Pieter Van Twisk, a Dutch filmmaker and journalist, respectively, came up with the idea for the project, and recruited the lead investigator, retired FBI agent Vince Pankoke. Pankoke has previously worked on cases involving Colombian drug cartels.

The new Anne Frank case will focus on investigative techniques that have only become available in the last decade, like big data analysis. Already, the investigators have uncovered new information, such as a German list of informants and the names of Jews that had been arrested and betrayed in Amsterdam during the war, found in the U.S. National Archives.

The investigators hope to provide answers in time for the 75th anniversary of the Frank family’s arrest in August 2019.

[h/t The Guardian]

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