The Coolest Feature Of Windows 95 Was Created By Brian Eno, On A Mac


20 years ago today – August 24, 1995 – Microsoft introduced Windows 95, an operating system that revolutionized the way people interact with computers.

With Windows 95, Microsoft brought the graphical user interface to the masses, moved to a multi-tasking architecture and eliminated the need for most people to deal with command-line bullshittery.

One of the coolest aspects of Windows 95, though, was its soothing ambient startup sound, created by ambient pioneer and super-producer Brian Eno:

Eno’s work as an ambient pioneer and as a producer (Talking Heads, U2, Devo, Ultravox and others) is what he’s best known for.

But the Windows 95 startup theme, aka The Microsoft Sound, may be his most played work.

In a 1996 interview, Eno explained the origin of The Microsoft Sound:

The idea came up at the time when I was completely bereft of ideas. I’d been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated someone coming along and saying, “Here’s a specific problem — solve it.”

The thing from the agency said, “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah- blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional,” this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said “and it must be 3 1/4 seconds long.”

I thought this was so funny and an amazing thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It’s like making a tiny little jewel.

In fact, I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work.

Then when I’d finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.

Ironically, Eno created the iconic sound on a Mac. In a 2009 interview, Eno admitted “I wrote it on a Mac, I’ve never used a PC in my life; I don’t like them.”

Over the years, The Microsoft Sound has inspired cover versions, remixes and more.

Here’s an acoustic piano version, by Marcin D?browski:

Here’s the ambient ambient version – the original, slowed down 23 times:

Here’s an example remix of The Microsoft Sound, via TheZitRemProject:


Finally, here’s the psychodelicmusic remix version:

Think Eno’s Windows 95 startup theme has passed the test of time? Leave a comment and let us know what you think!

19 thoughts on “The Coolest Feature Of Windows 95 Was Created By Brian Eno, On A Mac

  1. Hearing that sound again brought back many emotions…. lost work, blue screens, frozen apps. I can appreciate the sound now for what it is now that I don’t have to use the terrible OS. I think Eno did a great job trying to load all those adjectives into 3,25s of sound. MS just didn’t do their part.

    1. Actually I think you are wrong. Win 95 wasn’t that bad, and Win 95 OSR2 was pretty good back than. Sure it wasn’t rock stable, but as both – user and IT tech I really appreciated how simple, uncomplicated and universal this OS was (not to mention that it was a real breakthrough)…

  2. Always loved this startup musical piece… every time I booted Windows 95 back in the day I felt refreshed upon hearing it. Brian Eno certainly accomplished his goal, this is a classic motif and will forever bring back memories of nostalgia.

    Now, the real question is: what synths did he use to compose it? 😉

    PS: Eno’s tune also reminds me somewhat of the opening theme from the SNES video game, Secret of Mana:

  3. I also liked some of the work Robert Fripp done with his Soundscapes for Windows Vista, not sure if any of them were used though. At least someone in Microsoft has good taste in music 🙂

    1. It is true! The gentleman’s name is Steve Ball and he has excellent taste in music. He knew Trey Gunn (a bass player for Fripp) in college, and is responsible for all of the cool sounds in Windows. He’s also a very approachable guy. How do I know this? I worked at Microsoft from 2006-2014 in the Windows group. Oh, and he’s not the only one with great taste in music at Microsoft. There are some incredibly creative people working there.

      I too used a Mac (Logic) for MANY years for music composition– now I use both. The PC, as of Windows 7, finally was optimized (at the kernel level) for multi-media production and it shows. I knew some “ninjas” (that was literally their title) who did low-level kernel work for audio– and they were musicians/audio engineers like me.

      Studio One 3 is my DAW of choice now.

      I don’t work for MSFT anymore (I work in Public Broadcasting in the US), so I get no benefit praising Windows. I like to have ALL OSs available to me– I use both platforms equally, with some Linux thrown in as well.

  4. Anybody else stay up late and go to one of those release parties that CompUSA and Best Buy did? Microsoft knew how to hype things back then!

  5. you hear something a million times, you start the to imagine qualities that are not there. That is the foundation of pop music.

  6. “With Windows 95, Microsoft brought the graphical user interface to the masses, moved to a multi-tasking architecture and eliminated the need for most people to deal with command-line bullshittery.”

    What a load of crap. All Windows 95 did was begin the process of finally catching up the Macintosh, which “With Windows 95, Microsoft brought the graphical user interface to the masses, moved to a multi-tasking architecture and eliminated the need for most people to deal with command-line bullshittery.”

    All Microsoft ever does is copy Apple (poorly).

    1. And Apple copied the Xerox operating system! Look close enough and you can see where Apple is not usually the first. They just take pioneering work and polish it. Not a bad place to be.

  7. The command line dipshittery article is a good one, and I agree, but it was written in 2014, not 1994. DOS was a fact of life before then, and I found it easy to get the hang of so I could run whichever trackers or games I had back then.

    A recent install of Linux I did required zero command line work, which was pleasant. Computing has come a long way since the ’90s!

  8. I dont use fruit (Apple) I use a personal computer with Windows.

    I dont make money knowing how to use an Apple, but I sure make money cleaning up after Apple users who are forced to make a living using PC’s.

    Let’s face it, Apple is a wonderful system with great advantages for doing multimedia… HOWEVER if you spend your computing life on an Apple, and suddenly you are placed in front of a PC you will want to end your life.

    And guess what, proud Apple fanatics, this world RUNS on PC’s, not Apples. Inevitably you will sit down in front of a PC. Its a fact. So whine and complain about them all you want but they are prolific, affordable, and can get the job done if you are patient, read the manuals, and try to learn about the computer you are using.

    No diss to Apple, just stating a fact. PC’s still rule the market folks. DEAL!

    1. I’ve stopped using completely Windows in 2006 for work. In 2006 I was using only linux at work. Now I have two workstations, a linux box and a OSX machine.

      So your statement that “Inevitably you will sit down in front of a PC” is not really true.

      Its like saying “Inevitably you will be arrested by the police for speeding”.

      I’m using linux/osx since 2002 at home

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