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Sounds we took for granted, and may have even dreaded, in the past have become endangered. Take the sound of a dial-up 56k modem, for example: the weird combination of screams, beeps, and static that signaled the negotiation working towards connecting you to the Internet. While it was never a pleasant sound, it’s strange to know that thanks to the advent of broadband Internet, future generations will never hear the cacophony of the 56k modem. That’s where the Museum of Endangered Sounds comes in.
This online collection of outdated, endangered, and some likely extinct sounds was created by Brendan Chilcutt. He was prompted to create the museum by the thought that entire generations of children wouldn’t know “the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV” and that we may never hear Windows 95’s start-up. He was plagued by questions like “Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?”
Chilcutt launched the online museum in January 2012 and has a ten-year plan for its completion. According to the plan, data collection will be completed in the next three years, and the following seven years will be used to develop “the proper markup language to reinterpret the sounds as a binary composition.”
It’s hard to believe that sounds that were so important to our everyday lives and were the latest developments in technology will never be known by today’s children. A CD player skipping, a floppy disk or VHS tape being taken into their respective drive and VCR, and dot matrix printer printing are all included in the 15 sounds currently on the site. The sounds are comforting and nostalgic for children of the ’80s and ’90s; there’s even a Tamagotchi virtual pet’s beeping and a GameBoy’s music.
These sounds have been dying out for a long time, though. Even 10 or 15 years ago, I would have to dial my parents’ rotary phones for visiting friends because they had never encountered such antiquated telephones. You would be hard-pressed to find a functioning Speak & Spell now, though I think there are probably some Tamagotchis in need of new batteries sitting in attics at this very moment.
Chilcutt accepts that not everyone will understand the need for this site, but it’s available for those who get nostalgic for the technology of yesteryear. It’s sad to think that many of these noises only exist online as MP3s now, so if it makes you feel any better, my parents are still proudly using rotary phones (though they did have to break down and buy a touch-tone phone so that they could access menus and extensions).