The Chimes of Death signal an error or a serious problem with the Macintosh-in-question.

Often, the Chimes of Death are accompanied by a Sad Mac icon in the middle of the screen.

Different Macintosh series used different death chimes. The Macintosh II was the first to use death chimes (an upward chord). The Macintosh Quadra and Macintosh Performa lines played a six-tone chord in F minor. The NuBus PowerMac series used a bongo drum sound, while the very first three Power Macintosh computers used a car crash sound. The beige Power Mac G3s used a sound of glass breaking.

In Mac OS X, the Chimes of Death are no longer used. In place of them and the Sad Mac icon, there is a new symbol called the Prohibitory sign.

Sources and References

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