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Nerdstalgia: The Sound Of Obsolescence

There was an article the other day at USA Today about how an insurance company is doing a traveling roadshow to teach young drivers something that’s practically a lost art in 2012: how to drive a stick shift. Manual transmissions — sticks and clutches — are a mystery to most people under 25 years old (and over, too; I admit I’ve never learned to drive a stick, and I’d say most adults in America haven’t, because you don’t need to learn it to get by in a world where most cars have automatic transmissions). But the article got me thinking about things about which most people were familiar a few years ago that are completely lost now, and that brought me to remembering (I’m not sure where I first read about it) a website that’s been around since the beginning of the year that specializes in something you don’t think about much but is fascinating nonetheless: Sounds you don’t hear anymore.

The site is called the Museum of Endangered Sounds – — and it’s a very simple site created by… well, the site SAYS that a guy named Brendan Chilcutt made it, but it’s actually something that some Virginia Commonwealth University students started as sort of a joke (“Brendan” is a fake nerd. Shameful!) — with graphics of items that were extremely commonplace just a few years ago that aren’t anymore, and the sounds play when you click them. The click of a 35mm analog camera, now replicated on your cell phone camera; the bleeps of Space Invaders; a standard desk phone ring, not the electronic kind but the ringing of a bell; old-school cash registers, modems,record changers and typewriters and dot matrix printers and dial phones… there are a lot of sounds that you just don’t hear anymore. (There are some included at the site that aren’t all that old or as familiar, like a Tamagotchi, but whatever)

I can think of other sounds that deserve to be remembered — the bell that sounded when you pulled into a gas station in the days of full service, the ka-chunk of the old TV remote control, the sound of TV stations signing off for the night (the anthem, the ID announcement, the hiss and static of a dead carrier), the whir of the mini-cassette in an answering machine, the click of a car radio preset button before digital tuning came into vogue… What sounds do you recall that aren’t around anymore, and which from today do you expect to be gone in the near future? (Here’s one: the sound of the DVD drive closing and the player spinning the disc) Post in the comments and maybe drop “Brendan” an email suggestion to add it to the site.

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  2. carlos says:

    mentioned this site on our podcast Play This! .. must have went around the ether and we all grabbed hold.

  3. Dan B says:

    Email your suggestions to [email protected]. I saw this site back in June and emailed a bunch of suggestions that are now on the site (blowing into the NES cartridge, record static, film projector noise, telegraph clicks) I cannot confirm they were added due to my email, nor can i guarantee he will use your suggestions, but give it a shot!

    P.S. The one he didn’t use, which i was most fond of, is the cacophony of various video game noises emanating from an arcade. I still remember the excitement i would get as a kid in a mall, hearing that noise get louder the closer i got. #GoodOlDays

  4. Jonathon says:

    this may be veering off topic, but i just remembered the old casette rewinder my parents had…a special device just for rewinding vhs tapes so you didn’t wear down your vcr. we’d always rewind our tapes before sending them back to the library…so kind!

  5. Leah617 says:

    Holy. Balls. There was a lot of stuff I forgot existed. Like the Windows 95 start up music, and the Microsoft Encarta GAME! I played the fuck out of that. I think to add to the VCR nostalgia would be the sound of the VHS rewinding. And how you knew it was almost back at the beginning when the whirring slowed.

  6. Tina says:

    Good one, Jake!

  7. Jake says:

    Obsolescence. Sounds like the Kardashians’ new fragrance range. Huh? Huh? Anybody?…………….

  8. Saxyroro says:

    The sound of putting a cassette into a vcr click. Missing with the record needle. And I’m 33. The click that happens when you put in an NES game. Up up down down left right left right B A select start. Not the same anymore.