I recently ran across a website that I just had to write about: The Museum of Endangered Sounds.
It’s dedicated to the sounds the site's creators (three guys operating under a single pseudonym) believe are at risk of disappearing – primarily those made by outmoded technologies.
It’s actually kind of entertaining to revisit sounds from days gone by. Your reaction to them will likely depend on your age and whether or not you’ve used any of these technologies. For example, the sound of a tape being inserted into a VCR and the dot matrix printer resonated with me (pun intended). Remember the sound of winding film on your camera? Or playing Pac-Man?
One of the sounds this site exhibits is the static TVs used to make when there was no signal present (WARNING: the site’s creators include an image in the TV animation that some may find objectionable). These days, your TV typically displays a soothing blue screen and silence when it doesn't detect an input, but many of us remember the ‘snow’ and the sound that accompanied it. In fact, I still use it to demonstrate the difference between white noise (it’s very similar) and the much more comfortable sound distributed by our sound masking systems.
Of course, while some of these sounds are truly at risk of vanishing, others have been resurrected by newer technologies. Perhaps the best example is the traditional telephone ring that’s now so commonly used as a mobile ringtone that it’s sometimes difficult to tell whose phone is actually ringing. Come to think of it, some of the other sounds – like Pac-Man and even a fax machine – are also available as ringtones.
To think that people are getting nostalgic about these noises – phones ringing, fax machines chirping, printers running, and more – when our job as sound masking providers has always been to cover them up!
In any case, I hope you enjoy the trip down the acoustical memory lane as much as I did. The site’s creators are asking for suggestions, so I encourage you to submit your ideas.