The 20-Year-Old Features Hidden In Your Mac

Justin Pot 25-11-2015

Apple has been making computers and software for a long time, but El Capitan is totally modern —right? There’s no way it includes any elements from the 90s.


Wrong. Believe it or not, there are a few bits and pieces from the days of classic Mac OS still remaining in OS X El Capitan, though they’re a little hard to find.

Inspired by my collegue Joe Keeley, who found traces of Windows XP inside Windows 10 5 Traces of Windows XP Inside Windows 10 Revealed Windows 10 wasn't created from scratch. If you look closely, You will find traces of past Windows versions. We'll show you remnants of Windows XP, which survived 14 years of Windows evolution. Read More , I thought I’d investigate. Here are my findings.

Novelty Voices From The 90’s

We showed you how your Mac can read any text Your Mac Can Read Any Text To You, Here’s How Whether you want to hear an article while you do something else or want another voice to read your writing back to you for proofreading purposes, OS X comes with everything you need. Read More , highlighting the fact that you can optionally download the voice of Siri – called Samantha in this context – as well as high-quality voices from around the world. But scroll past those modern voices and you’ll find a Mac relic: a number of odd-sounding voices, many of them jokes.

These voices were all added to Mac OS in the 90s, as part of MacInTalk. The fact that they’re still offered in OS X in 2015 is kind of remarkable, but then again they probably take up next to no hard drive space.

Still, voices like “Bad News” – which sings “the light you see at the end of the tunnel is a headlamp of a fast approaching train” to you as its preview – are uncharacteristically tongue-in-cheek for Apple. In 2015, they seem take themselves seriously – too seriously to add jokes like this to their OS. It’s nice to see a little bit of that old Mac charm is still there, though.


And we can trace these voices back to the very beginning. A very early version of this same technology was used in 1984, when Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh. It brought the freaking house down:

The crowd went wild for this feature, which is understandable, and that’s probably no small part of why these old voices remain on your Mac today.

Another interesting tidbit: MacInTalk has a page on IMDb for the software’s role in WALL-E, among other movies, because Apple owns Hollywood How Apple Owns Hollywood, and Makes You Buy Its Products It seems that any film -- no matter what genre -- features an Apple product. In fact, Apple products constantly pop up in Hollywood movies. As we're about to explore. Read More .

The 1991 Alert Sound On Your Mac



Head to the Sound section of your Mac’s preferences and you can pick from a variety of alert sounds. Longtime Mac users should notice at least one sound from the classic OS era: Sosumi. It dates back to 1991’s System 7.

The name “Sosumi” (So Sue Me) is a reference to Apple’s early 90’s lawsuit with Apple Corps, the multimedia company owned by The Beatles. Basically, the Beatles were claiming Apple couldn’t call themselves “Apple” because it violated their copyright, and definitely couldn’t keep the name if they got into the music industry (which is really funny in retrospect Getting Started With Apple Music — What You Need to Know After the purchase of Beats last year, Apple has finally unleashed its streaming music service upon the world. Read More ). Lawyers worried that system sounds with names that were “too musical” could become a problem.

Jim Reekes, who created the sound, was sick of this. Below he explains that he jokingly wanted to call the sound “Let It Beep”, but instead went with the more subtle “Sosumi”.

Reekes didn’t reveal the joke for nine years, but someone at Apple evidently still loves it – 25 years later it’s still part of Mac OS.


There are plenty of other sounds that have been abandoned. So far as I can tell this is the only alert sound in OS X that dates back to the classic OS days, but you can download the other retro sounds back if you want: just drag them to ~/Library/Sounds (here’s how to access the Mac Library folder How To Access The OS X Library Folder & Why It's Handy Most OS X Library folders are best left alone, but it's useful to know your way in and around the User Library. Read More , in case you don’t know). Do that and the sounds will show up in the settings.

I’m quite partial to “Quack”, myself. What’s your favorite?

The Hidden Slow Animation

Some features exist entirely to “wow” customers in stores, and for a long time system animations were all the rage. So early version of OS X offered a little-known feature that serve no purpose outside of bling: a slowed-down version of the famous minimize animation. You can see it in action, right now, by holding the Shift key, then clicking the yellow “minimize” button at the top-left of this window.

Cool, right? I wonder if they’ll ever remove this.


Somehow Chess Remains The Same

Microsoft long offered games like Minesweeper and Solitaire How to Play Minesweeper on Windows 10 Microsoft no longer ships Minesweeper as part of Windows, but it doesn't mean you can't play the classic game! Read More along with Windows, but your Mac comes with only one game: chess. And perhaps the remarkable thing about this game is that, while basically every other program on in OS X has seen numerous changes this one looks basically the same as it did with OS 10.2.


Of course, there’s Game Center integration now, but it’s basically the same game Apple’s been offering for years. No Yosemite-style visual overhaul What's New In OS X 10.10 "Yosemite"? OS X is evolving both in terms of looks and features, and just like last year's Mavericks update, Yosemite will be another free download. Read More for this app.

What Classic Mac Features Did We Miss?

I’m sure there are more traces of Apple’s history hidden inside OS X, but these were the best things I found. I’d love to learn more, though, so please: let me know anything cool you find in the comments below!

Image Credits:System 7 by TORLEY via Flickr

Related topics: OS X El Capitan, OS X Yosemite, Text to Speech.

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  1. Mason
    December 1, 2018 at 3:59 am

    Slow minimize animation has been removed in macOS 10.14.1 Mojave.

  2. Troy Haliwell
    March 22, 2016 at 6:44 am

    "Classic" is Mac OS 9 and earlier, not OS X.

    • Justin Pot
      March 22, 2016 at 1:18 pm

      I tried to be clear on that point but help is always appreciated, so thanks!

  3. XzTS
    December 20, 2015 at 12:41 am

    Launcher came back to MacOS, however it was redesigned into the homescreen for iOS before coming back to MacOS as LaunchPad

  4. Anonymous
    December 1, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    fsdg mksdfg shdtg

  5. Anonymous
    November 25, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    If handwriting recognition still exists, it comes from the Newton. I don't know if they eventually removed it or not, though. I think you have to have a Wacom or other tablet connected to be able to turn it on.

    As to sounds, I think Ping and Submarine are pretty old, but not as old as Sosumi.

    • Justin Pot
      November 25, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      That's a cool tidbit, there is some handwriting recognition built in but I haven't tested it much personally.

    • Timur Tripp
      November 29, 2015 at 8:56 am

      The default alert sound selection in OS X has not been changed at all since Mac OS X Panther, released in 2003. Several other sounds ("Glass", "Purr", "Submarine") were included in Mac OS 9, and most of the others date back to 10.0 as well.