15 Old Computer Sounds That Will Take You Back to the '90s

Paul Campbell/iStock via Getty Images Plus
Paul Campbell/iStock via Getty Images Plus

In the '90s, there were distinct sounds associated with computers 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 Connection

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." According to Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic, the frequencies in the modem screech indicated different parts of data being transmitted across the phone line. “The frequencies of the modem's sounds represent parameters for further communication. In the early going, for example, the modem that's been dialed up will play a note that says, ‘I can go this fast,’” Madrigal writes. “The sounds weren't a sign that data was being transferred: they were the data being transferred. This noise was the analog world being bridged by the digital. If you are old enough to remember it, you still knew a world that was analog-first.”

2. 3.5-Inch Floppy Drive Sound

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

3. “You’ve Got Mail” (AOL)

Aside from being a romantic comedy, the "You've got mail" sound was familiar to all AOL users. It was voiced by Elwood Edwards, and recorded on a cassette deck in his living room. “My wife worked for a company called Quantum Computer Services that became AOL,” Edwards told CNBC, “and in 1989 she volunteered my voice to [future CEO] Steve Case. And on a cassette deck in my living room, I recorded [the iconic phrases], it was digitized into the software as a test and has continued to the day.” He’s apparently a fan of standing behind a person’s computer and uttering the iconic phrase.

4. Windows 3.1 Startup Sound

Tada! Just one second long. Because back in the 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. 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

ICQ is a chat application, first released in 1996, whose letters stand for “I Seek You.” You might be surprised to find out that the program, which had a plethora of fun sounds ranging from an “Uh oh!” for new messages and a frankly terrifying “chatLOL” laugh, is still around today.

8. Windows 98 SE Startup Sound

This is smooth, but we 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 [Sic] Dance

This is best experienced on an archive of the original Hampster Dance website. But if your browser doesn't like that site, the video above 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.

12. A 1993 PC and Ink Jet Printer Starting Up

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

AIM, which went offline in 2017, was an off-the-books AOL project designed to let people chat at work. It had a number of sounds—including a door opening when one of your friends came online, and a door closing when they left—that, when heard today, are sure to bring back memories of epic chats and away messages from years gone by.

14. Flying Toasters Screensaver

After Dark offered some of the best screensavers around. "Flying Toasters" had an optional score, complete with lyrics at the bottom. For more, see 10 Screensavers of Yore.

15. Goodbye (AOL)

Along with “You’ve Got Mail!” Elwood Edwards also voiced this soundbite. In 2016, Edwards was working as an Uber driver; surely many of his riders did a double take when they got out of his car and he said “Goodbye!”

Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Kodak

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Can You Spot All 10 Differences in These Illustrations of a Lively Park?

Scroll down for the full image.
Scroll down for the full image.
Watches2U

Head to any given park on any given sunny summer day, and you’ll likely encounter a people-watcher’s paradise. And to keep us occupied on the rainy days, online watch retailer Watches2U has turned all those sunbathers, joggers, dog-walkers, and skittery squirrels into an entertaining brainteaser.

The left and right images below are almost identical, save for 10 tiny discrepancies that you may not notice at first glance. Once you think you’ve spotted them all (or given up), scroll to the bottom to reveal the answers.

Which type of park-goer are you?Watches2U

As any good Parks and Recreation fan knows, even the smallest park can be a symbol of community and a saving grace for city-dwellers short on yard space. And national parks, like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, can be full-fledged vacation spots. They often also help protect wildlife in the region. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for example, is known as the “salamander capital of the world,” and Theodore Roosevelt National Park is home to hundreds of bison, which were once on the brink of extinction.

In the midst of the current pandemic, a visit to your local park might look a little different than it usually does. Masks and social distancing are musts, and hand sanitizer should flow freely. And if you’re road-tripping a little farther from home, here are some expert tips for doing it safely.

Answer Key

The kid riding the seesaw with no hands is a real daredevil, huh?Watches2U

[h/t Watches2U]