The Windows 95 volume control almost went to eleven


The movie This Is Spinal Tap introduced the world to the phrase going to eleven. The people over at Windows Media Player were not immune to its charms, alluding to the catchphrase in their advertising campaign.

Back in Windows 95, I know that there was at least one person who lobbied the multimedia team to give the Volume Control program eleven notches in its control slider as a tribute. Alas, their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, but it was cute to know that somebody considered the possibility.

Comments (31)
  1. whiner says:

    Windows Vista at best goes up to 8.

  2. anonymous says:

    Most likely quality control avoided bringing an unjustified feature into the code base. Then again, why are there easter eggs in Win95 and MS Office?

  3. J. Edward Sanchez says:

    Ian: You could, but you’d be wrong. The volume slider actually has seven notches.

  4. Aardvark says:

    But why don’t you just make 10 louder?

    The common color picker has an issue with the sliders. You simple can’t get blacker. None, none more black.

  5. Jim Lynn says:

    The graphics application I once worked on for the Acorn Archimedes (don’t look for it – it’s not there any more) had the ability to change the level of details displayed. At the lowest level, it would show wireframes. Dialling up the levels would add more intensive features like graduated fills and transparency.

    One of the (at the time unique) features was that we could anti-alias the output (important for a vector graphic application like this). So we decided that full anti-aliasing would only be used if the slider went all the way to eleven.

    I always enjoyed demonstrating that part of the application at shows.

  6. Shuva says:

    Well, check out iTunes. The keyboardshort cut to raise the Volume is Ctrl+Up and you can go to eleven in 22 steps. Interesting!

  7. Evan says:

    @Aardvark: "But why don’t you just make 10 louder?"

    Because then it wouldn’t go to eleven. Duh. :-)

  8. Dom says:

    Amusingly the BBC iPlayer (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer) flash streaming media viewer does go all the way to 11.

  9. ::Wendy:: says:

    If the user, purchaser, perceives 11 as more valuable than 10 then there’s an opportunity for market differentiation,  albeit at the expense of common scale-controls,  but in this case does common-controls really add anything that would be damaging to remove?  

    When it comes to scales I’ve always been partial to 6-packs myself.

  10. aJanuary says:

    Enso Remote Media Controller can go up to 11. When you try it it just says "Our’s goes up to 11!".

    Though going to 11 does make some sense – you get more granularity.

  11. Seth says:

    It still does almost go to eleven.

  12. Ian says:

    @J. Edward: On the XP volume control program there are definitely eleven notches. I counted them.

  13. daveadams says:

    I’ve got a Klipsch subwoofer with an independent volume control that goes to 11. At some point, is it more hip to just have your volume control go to 10?

  14. J. Edward Sanchez says:

    Ian: We’re talking about the slider(s) in the Volume Control program, not the one in the Sounds/Multimedia Properties in the Control Panel.

    (Also, we’re talking about Windows 95, not Windows XP — but that’s moot, since the number of notches in the sliders didn’t change until Windows Vista.)

  15. Simon Cooke says:

    Jim Lynn… You worked on Xara/Artworks!?

    Awesomeness :) I love that app… I’ve been using it for nearly 12 years in various incarnations now. :D

  16. Maurits says:

    In these more enlightened days, Vista goes up to 100.

  17. Ian says:

    J. Edward: I thought the Control Panel was the volume control program.

    Anyway, what amused me was the notion that since the maximum volume is one less than the number of notches on the slider, lobbying for eleven notches (as Raymond put it in the article) results in a maximum volume of ten, not eleven. Somehow I don’t think this is what Raymond meant.

    Oh well. Simple things amuse simple people :-)

  18. Nick says:

    "Then again, why are there easter eggs in Win95 and MS Office?"

    Obviously Microsoft fired everyone with a sense of humor after Windows 2000 shipped ;)

  19. Ivan-Assen says:

    I can’t believe no one mentioned this already but… in Guitar Hero all volume controls sliders go to eleven.

  20. Ian says:

    Can I be the first smart aleck to point out that the volume slider *does* have eleven notches?

    (Any C/C++ programmer worth his salt starts counting from zero…)

  21. Cooney says:

    At some point, is it more hip to just have your volume control go to 10?

    Microsoft doesn’t do hip.

  22. required says:

    I put a similar easter egg into an actual guitar product. It’s a check-box called "Tufnel Mode". When you figure out how to reveal it, then set it, the nearby volume control’s max label changes from 10 to 11. What effect this might have on the actual volume is left as an exercise for the reader. As far as I know, no one has ever found this egg. Nevertheless, I tested that check-box more than I’ve tested anything else in my entire career. Easter eggs just aren’t worth the stress. :-)

  23. Worf says:

    Hmm.. I have an SGI Indy box in my closet (remember when Apple introduced the PowerMac ("Power" from the fact they sportec PowerPC chips) 15+ years ago? SGI ran a bunch of ads showing how their RISC workstation (the Indy) was a way better multimedia machine than Apple’s).

    Anyhow, there’s a little easter egg in its sound control applet – you just had to pass in "-spinaltap" as a command-line argument to it…

    Alas, whether it made it do anything special… is anyone’s guess. (I.e., did it actually go to 11 or just rescaled?). The thing was, there’s no fine control – so -spinaltap would give a finer control of volume than without.

  24. jim says:

    @Jim Lynn: Ha! I always said that had to be a Spinal Tap reference! (and yes, btw, it was a sweet app.)

    (another ex-Archimedes hacker here)

  25. Neil says:

    The volume control has 11 tick marks, but in fact 251 stops, or six if you use PgUp/Dn.

  26. David Walker says:

    My volume control (XP Pro) has 7 tick marks, with the bottom one apparently being zero.  Help/About says "Microsoft Master Volume".

    I can pretend it goes to eleven!!11!!

  27. Anonymous says:

    In XP, the mmsys.cpl device master volume has 11 ticks (0-10), 251 stops (0-250) and 6 pages (0-5).  It does not "go to eleven", because amps start at 0, too.  The sndvol32.exe volume control has 7 ticks (0-6), 513 stops (0-512) and 5 pages (0-4).

  28. Jonathan says:

    Anonymous: Thank you for the clarification.

    My TV’s volume is 0-63. I guess there’s a 6-bit DA converted in the somewhere.

  29. Anonymous says:

    Correction: both mmsys.cpl and sndvol32.exe’s range are actually 0-500, and the ticks are every 50 and 84 stops respectively.  The pages are 100 stops by default.

  30. - says:

    Not obvious to some people, but that lets you reduce the volume beyond "just one pixel" by using the down arrow with the slider selected. Useful for some laptops where "just one pixel" is too loud already.

    In Vista, you’re apparently stuck with 100 levels, so I think it’s safe to claim it has gotten 5 times worse.

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