The Playstation 1 as you never heard it

December 30th, 2018

The Playstation 1 turned 25 this month, and I was just going through some old recordings when I stumbled upon this gem (warning: it’s a slow build, but it gets loud!):

For reference, here’s what that SHOULD sound like:

I have no idea how our Playstation made this sound, but here’s the story:

Travel back with me if you will to the year 1999. Y2K mania was sweeping the world as QA Managers were stockpiling canned goods and weapons (at least mine was). Cellphones were slowly creeping into peoples pockets, but were mainly used for talking. And a hot tech device, the Palm Pilot, was taking the way we wrote letters and transforming them in a stylus friendly way (R.I.P.).

I was a recent college graduate living with a house of fellow humans who were trying to find their way in a post-graduate life. One of my roommates had bought a Playstation back in 1995 or 1996, and it lived a rough life bouncing from house to house. Needless to say, by 1999, it was on its last legs. I remember popping in a disc sometimes and hearing the platter spin and wondering if it was melting. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t.

Often, when it wasn’t going to work, it went through its boot process at a glacial pace. The startup sound (and visual) would play at that crazy speed above turning a 15 second synth stinger into a 2 and a half minute opus that Vangelis himself would have considered composing on his latest album.

I thought it was the coolest thing and, as a newly minted sound designer, thought it would be a really fun thing to capture. I truthfully can’t remember how I recorded it, but with the amount of hiss on the original recording, I’m guessing I used a cassette recorder pointed directly at the TV speaker. Hi-tech solution, I know.

Obviously, I’ve never used the sound because it’s property of Sony (who is coincidentally now my boss), but I’ve kept the sound around because I love it as an example of what we do in our craft: take some sound and via trickery, design, tools, techniques, and happy accidents, turn it into something wholly new and unique.