2016 MacBook Pro loses the iconic startup chime

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The "chime" sound effect has long been part of macOS.
Photo: Apple

Physical function keys on the Mac and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the iPhone aren’t the only casualties of 2016. According to eagle-eyed (eagle-eared?) reporters, the new MacBook Pro jettisons the iconic F-sharp sound Apple uses to show a Mac is booting up.

The reason does, we admit, make sense — but it’s still sad to see a piece of Apple history join that great Mac museum in the sky.

The chimes at midnight

The Mac startup chime has been as steadfast a part of each successive Mac generation as icons and a mouse pointer. The use of an arpeggiated chord when you started your Mac dates back to the Macintosh II, when software engineer Mark Lentczner incorporated it into the system.

Like Susan Kare’s memorable icons, they made the Mac seem friendlier and more approachable than other computers on the market.

The sound was later revised by Jim Reekes, Apple’s senior software engineer in charge of the audio and system sounds, during the 1990s. Over the years, its tone has changed further and the instrumentation has also varied, as can be seen by the above video.

It has additionally been featured in popular culture, most notably in the 2008 Pixar movie WALL-E — which also happened to feature a character designed by Jony Ive.

The startup sound wasn’t just there to be fun and cutesy, however. It also serves a useful purpose by indicating that diagnostic tests which run on your Mac when it starts up have been successfully completed. When this is not the case, a different sound plays to show that this is the case.

So why get rid of it?

It’s easy to look at Apple’s decision to get rid of the startup chimes as part of Apple’s constant drive to modernize. With the new MacBook Pro, however, that’s not the case. The reason for getting rid of the sound instead has to do with the fact that the new laptops now turn on from a fully switched-off mode if they’re opened — meaning you can save all that energy you would otherwise have expended pressing the power button.

Having the startup chimes turned off by default means there’s no risk of embarrassment if you open your brand new MacBook to do some writing at an inopportune moment, like in the middle of an otherwise silent workplace.

Fortunately, it’s not totally gone for good. By writing a quick line of Terminal code, you can reactivate it — to make it feel like it’s 1999 (or, well, any time up until last week) again.

Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see if Apple ditches it from its next-gen iMacs when they eventually arrive. The fact that a 3.5mm headphone jack is part of the new MacBook Pro, but not the iPhone 7, means that Apple doesn’t always apply the exact same standards to all its products. But maybe Apple has just decided that it’s the end of the road for everyone’s favorite Mac chimes.

Would you miss them if they vanished forever? Leave your comments below.