A few weeks ago I was on vacation and I went into a deli to use the ATM. I swiped my card and then the strangest thing happened. When the ATM did it’s “connecting” thing to verify my information, out of nowhere came a loud ping, chime and crackle. It was a sound I hadn’t heard in years, but one that I instantly recognized. The sound of a dial up modem. I guess this ATM still used a 56k modem to do it’s transactions. It was an odd sound to encounter because I didn’t realize having dial-up was even an option in 2012. This got me thinking about all the other sounds that have gone extinct with the advance of technology. Things like analog television static, a metal hammer striking a bell when a telephone rings. All these sounds that were once such an inescapable part of our sonic environment are just vanishing from the world.
So, I was excited when I discovered the Museum of Endangered Sounds. It’s an online archive dedicated to preserving the sounds of increasingly obsolete technology. The site is in it’s early stages, but it features everything from the aforementioned dial-up modem sounds to those made by VCRs, payphones, and a whole slew of electronic devices and software. Sure it’s all a bit nostalgic, but the site really underscores the extent to which we develop emotional connections with sound, and how closely our memories are linked to the soundscapes of our everyday lives.
I wanted to learn a bit more about the Musuem of Endangered Sounds, so I got in touch with the brains behind the operation: Phil Hadad, Marybeth Ledesma and Greg Elwood. I spoke with them about their project.
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