It happens subtly, without our even noticing it. Another new gizmo comes along that performs the same functions as the old one, but better, faster, smaller, with more features…. Like the last one, it quickly becomes our go-to, and before long we’ve tossed out the old version. Then suddenly we realize that our universe of familiar everyday sounds has shifted.
Who remembers AOL’s “You’ve got mail,” which became so ingrained in our culture that a film was named after it?
Times change, and we adapt and embrace. Listen to these vintage sounds, which we found on YouTube and Soundcloud, and remember: Soon enough, the ping of an incoming text message on your smartphone is going to seem as if it belongs to another world.
The Sounds of 20th-Century Tech
Cellphones have added a slew of ringtones to our audio environments; the rotary phone’s spring dialing mechanism—a complex mechanical technology in itself—made a single and distinctive “swoosh” sound.
And who can forget this now-classic recorded message?
The Time Lady
Before digital connectivity brought perfect timekeeping via our devices (and automatic reset with daylight savings), you might have called the Time Lady. Interesting tidbit: According to Wikipedia, the first dial-in time service in the US was introduced in 1934 as a promotion for Tick Tock Ginger Ale. Connecticut and Nevada still have what’s more formally known as the Time of Day service; California’s, known as POPCORN, was phased out in 2007.
The clacking of the keys, the “ding” at the end of the line, the carriage return…. great sounds, but not so much fun when you have to make a correction. The typewriter business went downhill in the ’80s as the PC took over, and Smith Corona now makes thermal products for barcode labels. But Woody Allen still uses a typewriter.
Kodak released the Super-8 film format in 1965 and it became the home movie staple in some families, with the grainy images accompanied by the evocative sound of film winding through the projector until 1973, when Super-8 gained audio.
Before photocopiers came along, mimeos and spirit duplicators were the machines of choice in schools and offices. You might remember the smell of the ink, as well as the sound.
Even some computer sounds are old school now.
If you still use dial-up, you’ll be glad to say goodbye to this sound.
TV Sign Off
Before 24/7 programming and infomercials, TV stations signed off for the evening around midnight. This is the WMTW sign-off in 1982.
And let’s not overlook that obnoxious test pattern sound!
Which of Today’s Sounds Will Disappear ?
We crowdsourced answers on Facebook to discover which tech sounds may be gone 10 years from now. Here’s a selection:
- Gas-powered car engine
- Nokia ring tone
- DVD tray (this one could be gone by 2020)
- QWERTY computer keyboard
- AM radio
- Locomotive engine
- Pen on paper
More Vintage Sounds
Here are a few sites to check out:
Museum of Endangered Sounds A college student, Brendan Chilcutt, launched this site in 2012 by to save the sounds of his favorite technologies and electronics.
Radiooooo.com Select a country, pick a decade and this musical time machine will serve up the songs. (Be patient, it may take time to load.)
You Tube Audio Library Browse and download free sound effects and music.
Do you miss any vintage sounds, or were you happy to say goodbye to the old tech and move on?