Client story: Brian Eno creates the boot up sound for Microsoft Windows 95


I was strategic planning director for the launch of Windows 95 at Wieden & Kennedy. Apple was a tiny marginal brand suffering from a lack of software support and incompatible Motorola processors. PCs could do more for more people but needed to be accessible and have a friendly, easy to use interface if they were to appeal to the general public and be used in the home.

Cultural context: Computers were for the office, were alien technology, they were machines, they were not particularly liked. PCs, unlike Macs, had no character and no sense of excitement when booted up. Computers had yet to become mainstream culture.

Strategic Direction: This could be changed with the right boot up sound from the right composer. A composer with a cultural heritage of gentle, ambient and positive work: Brian Eno. If Brian could write “Music for Airports” he could write music for Windows 95 and transform the cultural experience of the machine. I faxed him the brief.

Eno created the start-up sound for Windows 95; a 3 second composition to emotionally engage the user in a positive and uplifting start to a journey into “a new world of thinking and communicating”.

In a 1996 Q&A published by San Francisco Gate, Eno said: 

“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 and 1/4 seconds.’ 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….” 

We made history. That three seconds of music has been listened to billions of times.

With: W+K Creative Director John Jay, CD Steve Sandoz and Brian Eno.