Booms, Boings and Wisecracks

Whimsical sound effects are the newest and noisiest way to personalize a personal computer

IN THE BEGINNING WAS THE BEEP -- simple, utilitarian and sufficient to alert a computer user that his machine had been turned on or that a floppy disk had failed. Then came the Macintosh, with its built-in sound chips and an onscreen control panel that enabled Mac enthusiasts to replace the beep with a boing, a clink-clank or a monkey's chirp. Finally, last spring Microsoft put sound- control software in the latest version of its Windows program, extending the power to customize a computer's noises to the 90 million owners of IBM PCs and compatible machines.

Suddenly, computers that had whirred...

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