Posted by Masakim on December 05, 2003
In Reply to: Bells and whistles posted by The IT Man on December 05, 2003
: : Hi! How did the phrase "bells and whistles" come into being? What does it mean? Thank you, Sax
: I recall back in the early 1980s, if a computer program had features that were not core to the process, they would be described as being 'bells and whistles' - I think that at the time we understood it to be like a child's combined play toy in which added sensory stimuli could be added.
bells and whistles ... noun phrase
In colloquial use in computing, additional facilities in a system, program, etc. which help to make it commercially attractive but are often not really essential; gimmicks.
An allusion to the old fairground organs, with their multiplicity of _bells_ and _whistles_; the _bells_ of a computer are actually a range of electronic bleeps. There are more tha 600 microsystems on the market so it is hardly surprising that the manufacturers have taken to hanging a few bells and whistles on to their machines to get them noticed. _Sunday Times_ 26 Aug. 1984, p. 49
From _The Oxford Dictionary of New Words_
You look up at an angle of sixty degrees and see sweeping along the edge of a precipice, two-thirds up the rocky height, a train of red-and-yellow railway-cars, drawn by two wood-burning engines, the sound of whose bells and whistles seems like the small diversions of very little children, so diminished are they by the distance. (_Appleton's Journal_, 1876)
How the bells of Havana rang out the gRegina Coelih on Holy Saturday! All the ships in the harbor were decorated. Easter morning, all the bells and whistles helped to ring in the great feast. (M.E. Henry-Ruffin, _The Catholic World_, 1899)
Feel like a broke-down engine, mama, / ain't got no whistles or bells. / Feel like a broke-down engine, baby, / ain't got no whistles or bells. / If you're a real hot mama, / come take away Daddy's weeping spell. ("Broke Down Engine Blues No. 2"  sung by Blind Willie McTell)
Atlantic in October 1982@A 1982 article in Atlantic referred to bells and whistles as
[bells and whistles] Pentagon slang for extravagant frills. (_Atlantic_, October 1982)
Congressmen, being congressmen, could not resist trying to attache all their favourite bells and whistles to the legislation. (_Economist_, December 26, 1987)