What happened to ringtones

People forget that before the days choosing whatever you want as the ringtone on your cellphone, we had to live through the hell of 8 bit ringtones. I don't care what you say... The Crazy Frog was an asshole.

nokia phone

There was a time long ago, when the ring that your cellphone made when receiving a call defined who you were as a person. If your phone made the wrong ringing sound, there was the potential for humiliation by all those within earshot but if your phone had an awesome ringtone, you could stand proud as you soaked in the envy of those around you.

Although their sound has progressively changed throughout the years, one thing has remained; cell ringtones have always been annoying.

On the scale of things that irritate my eardrums, early cell ringtones rank just below Snooki in the heat of an argument.

In the modern era where anything can be used as a ringtone, there is nothing more annoying than when somebody sets their phone up to play an entire song whenever they receive a text message. It makes overhearing a text message conversation

If your phone had an awesome ringtone, you could stand proud as you soaked in the envy of those around you

The history of ringtones

vibrates-in-your-pocket-breaks-your-leg-nokia-3310-memeRingtone customisation started off out of necessity. At first phones had a standard ring. But then, despite the fact that the cost of a phonecall to a cellphone was equivalent to the GDP of a small country, more and more people got cellphones it became difficult to know exactly whose phone was ringing.

To solve this, phone manufacturer’s started to offer a selection of ten different shitty sounds you could choose for your phone to make when it rang. From beep, to beeeeeep and beep beep, it was truly something special.

Suddenly, people realised that these beeps could somewhat resemble actual music and, with a little stretch of the imagination, they were able to recreate popular music in awful 8 bit tones.

If kids these days think that the fluro and shell-suits of late 90’s fashion was bad, they should think themselves lucky that they didn’t have to live through early ringtones.

Dodgy companies would try to flog you a song for your ringtone via the television for a $10 a day subscription. If you thought you could order one and get away with it, you were sadly mistaken as you would get you an absolute flogging from your parents when they received the next phonebill.

The danger was worth it though, as you weren’t cool in High School unless your brick phone played an 8 bit rendition of The Vengaboys whenever your parents rang to make sure that you weren’t smoking behind the bike shed.

Create your own ringtone

Then came the game changer; Nokia released a phone that would let you create your own ringtone. Well, I say ringtone but essentially you could just record different high pitched tones that your numberpad made and somehow work that into a song.

nokia ringtone composerForget iPhones and Androids, back in the glory days of 8 bit ringtones, everybody wanted a Nokia. Nokias were tough enough to smash a hole through the ground if you dropped them, you could play snake in glorious black and white pixels, and above all else they let you create your own personalised ringtones using the inbuilt composer.

Suddenly, every office, school and public space was turned into an 8 bit music hall, as a symphony of poorly created ringtones played out

You could even download Nokia sheet music from the dialup internet to make sure that your phone rendition of Hanson’s MmmBop was at least recognisable to other people.

Kids would sit for hours typing number and symbol combinations into their keypad before sitting back and waiting for that elusive phonecall that never came because a single phonecall to a mobile still cost the same as a mortgage repayment. If the phone did ring, it would normally be when nobody else was around to hear the fruits of your keypad labour.

Where did all the ringtones go?

Then, almost overnight, it all stopped. Phones now had the ability to let you upload anything you wanted as a ringtone. From an mp3 of your favourite song to a recording of you yelling “don’t answer the phone” which could be setup to play whenever your mother rang.

This was the beginning of the end for ringtones though. Its almost as if the limitless choice was too much for people and they suddenly reverted back to the standard old school ringing of a traditional bell phone. This was no doubt spurred on by the arrival of the Crazy Frog.

These days, I am happy with a standard traditional ring on my phone. Although now that I’ve figured out how to get the custom ringtone from the TV show 24 onto my phone, I fear that the whole cycle may be about to start again.


I’m an ex breakfast radio DJ who no longer hosts a breakfast radio show so I created this website to give myself somewhere new to make jokes and rant about life, pop culture, celebrities and stupid people.


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