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Technologies of the past: polyphonic ringtones

Polyphonic ringtones can create multiple musical tones and notes simultaneously, resulting in a more natural and realistic sound for melodies compared to older phones, which could only play monophonic ringtones, one note at a time. They simulate music using a predefined set of tones and instrument sounds, but cannot reproduce vocals or exact music.

It was British musician Thomas Dolby who created the first mobile software capable of playing polyphonic ringtones. Until then, he was known for the synthpop hits he produced during the 1980s. In the early 1990s, tired of the music industry, he decided to move to Silicon Valley, at a time when “computer companies were starting to take him over seriously music. “, according to his words.

There, Dolby created Beatnik, a company that developed sound software for websites and games, including virtual polyphonic synthesizers. Beatnik’s strategy was different from what was done at the time, as he did not use hardware to produce polyphonic sounds through a sound chip, but software. It was a simple and cheap solution.

Looking for a way to include polyphonic ringtones in their mobile phones, later in the early 2000s, Nokia licensed miniBAE, from Beatnik, which was actually intended to be a website plugin. Incidentally, its features resembled the requirements needed to function on a mobile phone of the time. In 2002, the Nokia 3510 was the first mobile phone to use polyphonic ringtones.

It didn’t take long for other companies to adopt the technology, which became standard in mobile devices. Beatnik has also licensed software to brands such as Sony Ericsson, Siemens, Samsung, Motorola and Panasonic. miniBAE is installed on more than 3 billion mobile phones worldwide.

There are those who say that polyphonic ringtones appeared in Japan, around 2001. Dolby himself said that, in fact, Nokia requested it, since there were Asian companies releasing mobile phones with sound chips that could play polyphonic ringtones. But they were expensive, seven dollars each. In fact, it was the Japanese company Yamaha that created the first polyphonic ring technology, with the MA series of polyphonic sound chips.

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