He may not be the best known character in the Mac world, but his work is one of his most deeply rooted trademarks in our subconscious, the characteristic Mac start-up sound. In this interview, Jim Reekes talks about his work at Apple, not only as the creator of the boot sound still in use on today’s computers, but also the sound manager for the System 7 control panel, among others.
Reekes worked as a programmer at Apple for 12 years and played a leading role in the development of Quicktime and the aforementioned System 7. He is also responsible for many of the system’s sounds, not just the boot sound, being another of his best known creations: the sosumi sound , on which one of the funniest legal issues in Apple’s history revolved.
In 1991, at the time of its creation, the relationship between Apple Corps (the company of the Beatles ) and Apple Computer was still somewhat delicate because of their eternal differences in the use of the word Apple as a trademark and a ruling obliged the latter not to produce “creative works whose main content was music” . Because of this, when the new sounds for System 7 were created, Reekes’ work was under intense scrutiny from the company’s legal department, something that frustrated him greatly.
So, when they told him that one of the warning sounds had a “very musical” name, Reekes jokingly replied that it should be called “Let It Beep”, a play on words referring to “Let It Be”, one of the Beatles’ songs. Of course, the people in the legal department are not famous for their sense of humor and they replied that the name would not be approved. Reekes just answered them “So sue me” . After giving it some thought, he presented the sound again but this time using the name “sosumi” (pronounced the same as “So sue me”) assuring the legal department that it was a Japanese word and had no musical reference.
Even today, the word sosumi is still used as an internal joke in Apple and is even the name of the class used in the CSS style sheet for the legal notices block at the bottom of the Apple website (if you look at the HTML code of the page and search for the word you will soon find it).
About creating the start-up sound, Reekes commented in another interview…
Jim Reekes’ (and all those who were already schemers at that time) crowning moment came when Apple took them to the premiere of Jurassic Park . I jumped out of my seat when I saw that Steven Spielberg had used my sound when rebooting the computers in the park! I imagine Reekes would have some deja vu at the premiere of Wall-E .