Answer: Brian Eno
The short and clear Windows 95 boot / shutdown sound has a backstory far beyond the calming short playing time. In 1994, Microsoft contacted the famous ambient music composer Brian Eno to help compose music for Windows 95. Eno was in a creative funk and attributes his work with the simple start-up to help him break through. In a 1996 interview with the SF Gate, he explained:
The idea came up at that time when I was completely lost by ideas. I had been working on my own music for a while and was quite lost, actually. And I really appreciated that someone came and said, "Here's a specific problem – solve it."
The case from the agency said, "We want a music that is inspirational, universal, blah blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional," the whole list of adjectives, and then in the bottom says it "and it must be 3 1/4 seconds long."
I thought this was so much fun and a fantastic thought to actually try to make a little piece of music. It's like doing a little little jewel.
I actually did 84. I came all the way into this world of small, small, small pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of it that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I finished it and went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like the time of the ocean.
Years after he created the melody, he admitted in an interview from 2009 that he had composed the iconic Windows setting on a Mac, because he was not very fond of Windows computers and never used one.
Image courtesy of Long Now Foundation.