The story behind the iPhone’s ubiquitous “Boo-Dah-LING” ring tone

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Whether it’s for email, a new Facebook update or a push notification for Angry Birds, every iPhone owner (and nearly every other person around them) has heard the cheery tonal marimba of the notification update — called “Tri-Tone” on the phone’s sound settings. It’s a clear, unmistakable “Boo-dah-LING!”

But, like the story behind (the now discontinued) GOOG-411 tone, those three little notes have quite an intriguing history — especially since they were developed eight years before the first iPhone hit production.

The man behind the tone, Apple software engineer Kelly Jacklin, offered a detailed anecdote on his blog about developing the notification noise, which he initially named “158-marimba.” The task Jacklin initially received, all the way back in 1998, was to play around with a tonal sequence that would notify iTunes users that a disc burn was complete. As someone who dabbled in MIDI, Jacklin took on the task as an expression of his computer music interest.

After singling out five different instruments — the marimba, the kalimba, the koto, the harp and pizzicato strings — Jacklin said that he narrowed down to three and four-note sequences and then fed them into MIDIgraphy, where he played with tone and tempo of the different sounds.

After eliminating the koto and particularly enjoying the marimba’s Jacklin says he picked “158-marimba” as his favorite. Little did he know that the disc burning sound would turn into Apple’s universal update noise, and then jump to the iPhone to be the default setting for nearly every notification that crosses the system.

For a more detailed take on the experience, plus an MP3 of all the potential candidates, see Jacklin’s blog post . But you won’t find it too difficult to pick out that famous “Boo-dah-LING.”

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