Sosumi – The famous Mac alert sound has an interesting history

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Sosumi is the name of an alert sound introduced on the Macintosh System 7 operating system and included ever since. The clip was created by Jim Reekes, an engineer working on Apple Sound Manager. If you say that name aloud, it comes out as “so-sue-me“. And that’s what it meant! This is the story of the sosumi alert tone.

Lawsuit: Apple Records vs Apple Computers

In 1978, Apple Records owned by The Beatles filed a lawsuit against Apple Computers. They believed that the similar sounding company name was an infringement of their trademark. An out-of-court settlement was reached wherein Apple Computers agreed that it would stay out of the music business.

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However, the records company sued again when Apple Computers added a sound chip on their machines. Additionally, everything related to sound had to be sent to the Beatles attorneys for their approval. The relationship between the two companies was becoming acrimonious.

So, sue me, Apple Records!

Apple Computers sound engineers, especially Jim Reekes, were exasperated. He was told to change the name of an API from “noteCmd” to “frequencyCmd”. Reeves knew that this would break applications that the team was working hard to deliver on time.

Irritated and peeved, he jokingly suggested “Let it Beep” as the name of the alert sound, which any music aficionado will tell you, sounds similar to the popular Beatles song, “Let it Be“. Everyone at Apple Computers joined in the laughter though it was evident that the Beatles attorneys would understand immediately that they are being mocked.

Jim’s colleagues told him that he wouldn’t be able to get away with it. And to that he replied, “so sue me”.
He spelt it as “sosumi” and asked the person who was in touch with the Beatles attorneys to NOT say the name aloud but spell out each letter and mention that it has Japanese origins.

No red flags were raised by Apple Records attorneys and that is how the famous Mac alert beep was named sosumi!

Because of all the enemity, only after many years, was the entire catalogue of The Beatles released on Apple iTunes on 16th of November 2010.

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