That "Das Blinken Lights" sound effect?

Something like this:

You know the kind. It goes along with this sort of grid of blinky lights in movies. Or by itself for radio shows.

Clearly the computer (or robot) is thinking really hard.

What I’d like to know is when did this start? Whose idea was it? I know of no real-world computer that actually made a sound of any kind, except for startup tones and alert beeps. Quindar tones aren’t much like it, and it pre-dates dial-up modems.


Oh. A bit of context for the faux-German phrase …

das blinkenlights

An old phrase used to refer to the myriad of blinking lights on old mainframes, it is still popular because Hollywood often uses the term in sci-fi thrillers.

The historical perspective on this phrase is that it comes from a humorous sign commonly seen in mainframe computer rooms:

“Achtung! Alle touristen und non-technischen lookenpeepers! Das machine is nicht fur fingerpoken und mittengrabben. Is easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken mit spitzen sparken. Das machine is diggen by experten only. Is nicht fur gerwerken by das dummkopfen. Das rubbernecken sightseeren keepen das cottenpicken hands in das pockets. Relaxen und watchen das blinkenlights.”


No idea, but any excuse to post this


Louis and Bebe Barron made the first full electronic soundtrack and effects in Forbidden Planet (1956), which contributed to the sounds attributed to computers


I think there might be some nice Dr Who examples of this from the 60s and 70s.

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Have you tried this? Bitshifter BOH!NGLER?

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digital PDP8 picked up on AM radio

Maybe that’s what started it. random calculations would sound more like your patch.

Here’s an early computer with lights for the registers/counters. (Whirlwind 1951)

“Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” had the lights, but I don’t know if they used the sound.

That’s just as good as Man or Astroman? using an Apple ImageWriter II for some techno beats.

I had one. It was loud. It made pretty cool rhythms when you printed out spreadsheets.

[later…] Man or Astroman? also appear to have sampled something from a movie for the first 8 seconds of this piece…

… which sounds similar to my patch. Sadly, I can find no reference to which movie it came from. It sounds pretty old.

The EEVIAC name (an homage to ENIAC) was totally invented by them for the album.

Ok my wild theory is that educational videos like below that explained how computers worked often had cheap synthesizer music and sound fx soundtracks and over the time this bled into the sounds people thought mainframe computers themselves made.

In fact the only sounds were generally the sound of cooling fans, whirring tape heads and golfball style printheads loudly banging out typed output.

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EMERAC, the computer suspected to replace the research department in Desk Set (1957) starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, made some “boop” noises that Hepburn imitates. It also had the wall of blinking lights. And then there are the “Krell-like” noises it makes when overloaded at the end.


Of course they had to use a faux Optical Character Recognition typeface for the text.