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This video shows you just how bad Mac OS 9's Voiceprint spoken password system was

Steve Jobs Voiceprint Announcement
Steve Jobs Voiceprint Announcement (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Steve Jobs announced Mac OS 9's Voiceprint feature on-stage.
  • But the feature barely worked when people tried it.
  • This video shows just how clunky it was.

There are some features from old Macs that I've heard of but never seen. Voiceprint is one of those features. It was released alongside Mac OS 9 and the theory was a good one. Nobody wants to remember passwords, so why not have them speak into a computer and authenticate that way? Sounds aces, right?

Well, this was back in 1999 and technology wasn't quite where it is today. So the result was something that barely worked. And just setting it up was an experience that might just have been enough to put people off Macs for life.

You can see why in this great new video from the pied piper of old Macs, Stephen Hacket. He shows Mac OS 9 running on an old iBook and boy is it painful to see Voiceprint being used.

Ignore the choppy video – that's because Hacket had to VNC into the iBook from a Mac Pro just so he could record the screen.

What makes this particularly interesting to me is the fact that I can use similar technology, with the exact same "my voice is my password" phrase to access my bank's telephone banking. And it works fairly well.

The magic of 20 years of technology advancement, I suppose. Maybe we'll get it back onto a Mac someday.

Oliver Haslam
Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

1 Comment
  • It was a good idea at the time, just a bad execution. People still forget their passwords today so you can't blame them for trying to solve it