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Save The Sounds!
August 6, 2014 9:25 AM   Subscribe


 


None of the "11 sounds" were really hitting me as remnants of a vanished past until I got to the gas station driveway bell. I guess it's because it was one of those things that disappeared without my really noticing it. But I can remember as a kid being kind of fascinated by it--and trying to make it ring by jumping up and down on the hose.
posted by yoink at 9:40 AM on August 6 [3 favorites]


awwww man i been waiting for this site to be back up from getting hugged by Reddit. And then i forgot about it! Thanks for posting TMOTAT!
posted by rebent at 9:49 AM on August 6


...until I got to the gas station driveway bell. I guess it's because it was one of those things that disappeared without my really noticing it.

About the same time, you started pumping your own gas, so you were too distracted to notice the missing bell.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:50 AM on August 6


I like the first link and the Preserving Endangered Sounds links, but have to say that the majority of those "26 sounds that are almost extinct" really, really aren't anywhere close to "extinct." Old and new technology frequently exist side-by-side, and not everyone has the newest format/version. There are a hell of a lot of older people, and I promise you that my 80 year old mother is going to keep watching her VHS tape of Casablanca on their nice TV rather than buying another digital copy to stream to her little iPad.

I have personally experienced the following semi-regularly or at least occasionally:
VHS tape (replacing box sets is expensive, and my VCR still works, so...)
Film projector (lucky to have opportunities for special viewings here in Philly)
Pencil sharpener (how else do you people sharpen your pencils?)
Actual phone ring-ringing (university offices)
Dot matrix printer (government offices, yo)
Winding the film in a camera (disposable cameras for events)

These, I do hear on a very regular basis, often daily:
Cracking a hardcover spine
Newspaper being read
TV static
Tuning into a radio station
CD skipping
Dialtone
gChat notification sound (still possible through Gmail by declining to upgrade the chat widget to Hangouts)
posted by desuetude at 9:52 AM on August 6


It bothers me on some horrifically nerdy level that the Space Invaders sound is the Atari 2600 version and the Pac-Man is really Ms. Pac-Man.
posted by Gev at 10:03 AM on August 6 [10 favorites]


Every once in a while I'm reminded that my wife (just a few years younger than me) never played the actual Pac-Man arcade game but did play the Atari 2600 version, so she associates a completely different set of sounds with the game.

In any case, every one of these sounds has been recorded many times and some of them were absolutely ubiquitous in TV and movies, so the danger of the sounds being lost to human memory is basically zero.
posted by Foosnark at 10:11 AM on August 6


The test pattern sound never plays from 11 sounds, but what an epic sign off: poetry, jets in clouds, and a synthesized national anthem!
posted by xammerboy at 10:20 AM on August 6


I've long been interested in the life and death of sound, and wanted to make a film about it but couldn't really find the heart of it to make it anything worth watching.

There are sounds most people hate and know that they hate (like leaf blowers) and so think about a time when the sounds didn't exist, but most sounds of modern life had a time in human history when they didn't yet exist: the sound of a well-oiled chain on bike gears, the saxophone, projected announcements, that satisfying high-pitched "bonk" of a metal bat against a solid pitch, a spoon sliding around the rim of a ceramic bowl....
posted by johnofjack at 10:25 AM on August 6


It bothers me on some horrifically nerdy level that the Space Invaders sound is the Atari 2600 version and the Pac-Man is really Ms. Pac-Man.

I don't think it's horrifically nerdy. Think about bird watchers - would they notice and care if a reference guide mixed up bird calls? Or if an art museum mis-labeled artwork, or hung it upside down?

Anyway, here are classic arcade sounds, recorded from 1982 until 1988 in a variety of locations on the east coast (previously).
posted by filthy light thief at 10:30 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


If you want to hear a dot-matrix printer, go rent a car.
posted by Zerowensboring at 10:31 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


...soooo old.... :(
posted by mudpuppie at 10:54 AM on August 6


I made a phone call the other day and got a busy signal (a busy signal!) and it took me a minute to realize what in the hell it was. And then I was like, "Wait, am I sure this is a busy signal and not a disconnect signal? No ... the voice talks at you when it's been disconnected. Okay. Busy signal."

It's been a long time since I last heard a busy signal!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:56 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


R. Murray Schafer's World Soundscape Project is doing something similar.
posted by shackpalace at 10:57 AM on August 6


From the Buzzfeed 26: Landlines aren’t so common anymore. Seriously, when was the last time you picked up a phone and heard a dial tone?

Just now. Seriously: pretty much everyone that works in an office still has a desk phone.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:06 AM on August 6 [5 favorites]


> If you want to hear a dot-matrix printer, go rent a car.

Last time I rented from Hertz, the transaction was completed over a video kiosk and the paperwork/tickets were thermally printed about as quickly as the cardstock could be fed.
posted by ardgedee at 11:27 AM on August 6


Just now. Seriously: pretty much everyone that works in an office still has a desk phone.

The office that I work in has no phones. We have around 150 employees here and as far as I know, only a phone at the front desk.
posted by octothorpe at 11:31 AM on August 6


Can't link on my phone, but anyone can hear typewriters by listening to Brian Eno's China My China.
posted by scratch at 11:31 AM on August 6 [1 favorite]


We had a deal, Kyle: Seriously: pretty much everyone that works in an office still has a desk phone.

Except those who work at new tech companies like Buzzfeed, where they've realized landlines are an unnecessary expense, especially when everyone has cell phones with ample minutes, and/or you can get good company discounts on work cell phones. Even here, in my government job in a historic building, I know a few people who have opted to do away with their landlines and only use their work cell phones. One less phone to check for messages, and no issues with the office phone lines getting damaged by work in or around the building (which happens more than I would have expected).
posted by filthy light thief at 11:34 AM on August 6


A curious exclusion of the noise from A Current Affair
posted by cellphone at 11:40 AM on August 6 [2 favorites]


Listened to the Speak & Spell, and it made me realize that I have the synthesized voice of the Speak & Math permanently embossed in my aural circuitry -- specifically, "GREATER THAN OR LESS THAN, LEVEL 1!". Considering the many thousand miles traveled on family vacations in the station wagon, I can't believe parents didn't give me up.

This also reminds me that the sound of our 1980's full-size cassette-tape answering machine is stuck in there, too. After hitting the end of messages, I guess it would automatically wind to the right place on the tape*: TICK ti-ti TICK (tape spinning briefly) TICK ti-ti TICK. *I have no idea how that thing worked. It doesn't seem like it should have.
posted by mean square error at 11:51 AM on August 6


everyone that works at our office (a manufacturing company that's been in continuous operation since 1947, so not exactly hi-tech) has a desk phone that does not give a dial tone because we were recently upgraded to VOIP digital sets.

so there's that anecdata for you.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:01 PM on August 6


Ah, the rotary dial. Fortunately, we have records of Ma Bell teaching people how to use the rotary dial phone in the silent era, even up to 1936 (here are awesome old sounds I'd never heard before seeing this clip)! No more clicking 5 times and wasting 2 minutes gabbing with Myrt before she connects you to Doc Williams.

I've set up my mobile to ring with the 70s tone I'm familiar with (mainly because I can't be arsed to re-do my ring tones of Paul Frees doing the countdown from The Impossibles or the funky chimes from Sesame Street ca. 1975).

I have a manual typewriter from the 50s in excellent condition, and I'd love to be able to get ribbon for it to actually use the thing, but I think that ship's long sailed. Sometimes I tap on it anyway, when I'm feeling nostalgic. I haven't used a typewriter since about 1990.

And in that list of 11 sounds the kids of today haven't heard, I hadn't heard the cube flash or the percolator before those videos, and I'm sure I'm an Old now. No one in our home ever used them. The sound of one of those 110 cameras, or of a Polaroid, those I know.

Someone needs to send this young man the old pull-string See 'n Say sounds!
posted by droplet at 12:03 PM on August 6


oddly enough we do keep a typewriter around in my department though, an old IBM Selectric that ONLY I KNOW HOW TO RUN BAHAHA because government / FDA filing forms, blah. They've recently been going form-fill PDF on a lot of their stuff, tho, so the days of the old Selectric maybe numbered.
posted by lonefrontranger at 12:04 PM on August 6


After the Loma Prieta earthquake, lots of people lost power (and if they were lucky, that was all they lost). My neighborhood (Piedmont Avenue in Oakland) included.

People went out to the local stores to buy batteries, water, booze -- whatever one needs after an earthquake. But no power, no stores could process payments.

EXCEPT.

Good ol' Longs Drugs, which was in a building designed by Julia Morgan, was so old-school they had mechanical cash registers so they could ring up purchases.

God help us in the next big quake. We need some non-electric things working. That's why I still insist on having a landline, although I don't know how long that will work.

(And that person in the video using the rotary dial? My experience is that the point of that is to pick up the receiver first, THEN start dialing.)
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:05 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


Can't help but be reminded of Milo's visit to the Soundkeeper in the Phantom Tollbooth, where she showed him a brown envelope containing "the exact tune George Washington whistled when he crossed the Delaware on that icy night in 1777.” Now *that* was sound preservation.
posted by Stig at 12:40 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


There are sets of telephony noises that have long gone - the staccato pulses of Strowager switches that often broke through on calls. the characteristic crackle of carbon microphones, and various interesting kinds of crosstalk from the days when not everything on the trunks was PCM.

My own particular menagerie of lost noises are mostly radio: analogue weather sondes, Cold War shortwave propaganda stations, the Woodpecker, certain very distinctive patterns that particular transmitters made (The WWII 19 Set was powered by two motor-turned dynamos, one of which only came on when you transmitted - as it came up to speed, the transmission faded in over a second or two in a completely characteristic way), the noise of video breaking through to audio and the whistle from the line output transformer on 405 line TV sets, the 400 Hz background buzz on older aircraft transmissions... I'd think that there will be a lot of genre-specific audio evolutions like that across a whole set of fields: factories, newsrooms, operating theatres, car workshops, will all sound very different now than they did fifty years ago.
posted by Devonian at 12:43 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


This is so hopelessly parochial I don't even know how to respond.

One of my absolute favorite things about visiting non-western cities is the panoply of sounds that I don't immediately understand. What would a museum of endangered sound look like for Shanghai, or Dehli, or Cairo?
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:49 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


About five years ago I picked up an old rotary dial phone on ebay for five dollars. It's huge, black, and could conceivably be used as a weapon. It hooked up with my home system (receives calls, won't make them) and rings very, very loudly. It also has, without a doubt, the finest quality audio output. I can also hang up on robocalls and boiler room salespeople with honest and powerful force. Slamming a receiver, hard, has a certain cathartic release that just isn't available with a cell. Perhaps the sound of an old telephone handset being slammed into place belongs on the list?
posted by TDavis at 1:07 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


The Mac startup sound is not the Mac startup sound.
posted by persona au gratin at 1:18 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


My dad was an avid baseball watcher 30+ years ago. I wasn't much into the games, but as I was reading in the family room where my dad was watching the game, I found the interstitial sounds between plays - hotdog hawkers, subdued crowd chatter - really soothing for some reason. You could hear these sounds because the announcers didn't think that they had to chat throughout the entire game. Also, ad interruptions weren't as frequent.

Saw a few minutes of a major league game in recent years: steady stream of narration, play happens and crowd goes wild, more narration, cut to ad. Don't know if anyone's noticed anything different.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 1:22 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Perhaps the sound of an old telephone handset being slammed into place belongs on the list?

Also the sound of a desk phone falling off the desk when you walked too far away with the receiver in your hand. You could drop those damn things off of a roof without breaking them but they made a horrible clang when they fell.
posted by octothorpe at 1:32 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Misread that as The Museum Of Endangered Souls.

Which is probably right next door.

Or if not, should be.

(I score eleven out of eleven.)
posted by IndigoJones at 2:09 PM on August 6


Can't help but be reminded of Milo's visit to the Soundkeeper in the Phantom Tollbooth, where she showed him a brown envelope containing "the exact tune George Washington whistled when he crossed the Delaware on that icy night in 1777.” Now *that* was sound preservation.
That was the first thing I thought of, as well..

Well, not the first thing.. the first thing was Dr. Kakofonous A. Dischord and the Awful Dynne.

And now I'm sad that I didn't choose "Dr. Kakofonous A. Dischord" as my MetaFilter handle.
posted by Nerd of the North at 2:20 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


As a former computer typographer I very much miss the amazing array of sounds made by phototypesetting machines. CompuGraphics, Quadexes etc. made really, really great noises, and I miss them, I really do. I understand there's a museum in Massachusetts that has a few; I need to go there and beg for a few to be switched on. Sigh.
posted by kinnakeet at 6:48 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


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