iPhone’s Text Message Alert, Explained

Probably one of the most iconic sounds in the history of technology is the text message alert you hear on your iPhones. If you do not know yet, it is the Boo Dah Ling alert which is the default text message tone of the iPhone. What is interesting is the history behind this seemingly mundane ring tone that got millions of Apple users all over the globe jump and reach for their iPhones whenever the tone is heard.  It will be fascinating to find out. Just recently, a post from the man behind this iconic text message tone has made its way online and the legend was exposed.


  • Kelly Jacklin, the Man behind the Tone

Kelly Jacklin, the founder of Jacklin Studios, an audio visual software studio, related that the popular iPhone text message alert came to life in 1999. He actually considers it to be a tri-tone noise which was conceptualized when a friend who at the time was working on Sound Jam MP persuaded him to develop a noise they would use to signal whenever a disc was done burning.  If you got to read the whole article, you are probably fascinated with the history of the tone but for the benefit of those who aren’t knowledgeable in audio engineering, here’s a simpler explanation of how the iconic tone came to be.

  • The History

According to Jacklin, he was looking for a simple and straightforward tone that had the ability to catch the attention of the audience. He started with a basic sequence of notes which were played along with a clean and crisp sounding instrument. His main intention was to come up with something that was able to stand out from a chaotic home or a busy street. It was also the same time when he was very much into kalimbas and marimbas which prompted him to use both instruments in creating the tone. When it came to the notes, he initially wanted a three-note sequence, with four notes maximum. Since he did not have enough time to dedicate to the task, he decided to go for simple and clean, nothing fancy. Apart from being simple, he also wanted to create a tone that would resonate happiness and this is why he focused on the notes I, III, IV, V and the octave from the major scale.

  • Apple’s Keen Sense of Hearing

The finished product of Jacklin was then sent to Sound Jam to be used as the burn-disc tone. He did not realize that this would actually signal the start of something major in his life. As soon as his burn-disc noise was released and utilized, Apple had the good sense to buy the application. And who would forget about its creators? They got hired, too. Jacklin was truly surprised to find out that even after iTunes was released, his noise was still being used to signal the final lapse of burning discs. Soon after, Apple incorporated the noise in the tone that would hint at the installation of new OS software. It was only in 2007 when Jacklin found out that his simplistic audio design was once again repackaged as the Tri Tone and was used as the default text message tone for Apple’s first generation of iPhones.

Who would have thought that a simplistic and three-note tone would be Apple’s most iconic tone? It just shows that nothing can hinder real talent. Whatever it is that you do, not everything needs to be elaborate or intricate; sometimes true beauty lies in the simplest things, with no thought to anything grand or complex.

  1. Thank you, it’s really interesting to know how such iconic things appera – would never guess about iPhone text message sound myself

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