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Sounds that have become extinct

Apr, 25, 2020

Nostalgic noises that have gone missing over time

During the COVID-19 lockdown we are missing many sounds from our day-to-day lives. But what about other sounds that have disappeared over time.

Remember the Pacman theme tune? The SHHHHCRRRRRRGHHHH! of a dial-up modem? The electronic twang of the original Nokia 3210 ringtone? Alas, they're the aural equivalent of the white rhino tragically endangered, if not extinct. There's even an online museum devoted to its preservation. It's all pretty poignant and fascinating looking at the evolution of some sounds, from birth to death 

In the words of the founder, these old sounds take us back to a time when our lives were simpler, we could move about freely in society way before the corona virus lockdown and life was much different. How many of these almost extinct sounds do you remember?

1. The dial-up modem 

Once upon a time – we’ll one day tell the children of the twenty-first century – the Internet was analogue. Analogue, they’ll ask? Well – you had to dial another computer by piggybacking on the copper network of phone lines. No such thing as 5G or the NBN back then!

The dial-up modem cleverly used sound waves to carry data across the phone network and the high pitched squeaks and hesitant beeps you heard while connecting weren’t just the sound of that data: they were the data itself. Pretty mind-blowing, really… From our wireless, seamless, terabits-per-second vantage point.

It was kind of like its distant cousin, the Fax Machine that is also almost extinct.

The dial-up modem cleverly used sound waves to carry data across the phone network

2. The cassette tape 

Remember tapes? The clack of the play, pause and stop/eject buttons, the hiss and whir of the spindles, the flat, low-quality audio (that's what happens when you try to fit lots of music onto magnetic ribbon an eighth of an inch wide). If that brings back fond memories, you were clearly a teenager sometime between the sixties and the early nineties. Alas, the cassette came to its crackly end with the advent of CDs. Naturally though, this almost extinct sound is now being revived by nostalgic hipsters.

3. TV static 

HISS! HISSSHH! Commonly referred to as white noise, TV static was a mainstay of the analogue broadcast era. Caused by electromagnetic interference accidentally picked up by the antenna while no other transmission was being received, "noise" looked like snow and sounded like well - noise. In Australia, it came to a hissy end in 2013 when the analogue signal was switched off for good.


4. The Nokia ringtone

If you had a mobile phone around the turn of the millennium, you probably had a Nokia, and if you had a Nokia, you probably had Grande Valse as your ringtone. Written in 1902 by Spanish composer Francisco Tarrega, the tune was purchased ninety-one years later by Nokia executives and trimmed into a 4-bar phrase that became instantly recognisable pretty much immediately. 

With its original form long consigned to history, the ringtone is still going strong with a crowdsourced remake and an inspired spin-off titled Valse Irritation d'Apres Nokia.

You may also miss the all-time game of Snake that came with it.

If you had a mobile phone around the turn of the millennium, you probably had a Nokia

5. The typewriter 

Long before the advent of the lightweight world of mobile computing (or in fact, computing at all), writing used to sound like real physical work. The clack of keys, the little bell to warn you of the line break, the rough clunk as you moved the carriage back to the starting point... It was as if the typewriter generated its own soundtrack as you went. Now, of course, you can download an app to give you the same effect but it's not quite the same, really, is it?

6. Overhearing public conversations

Remember those heady days of yesteryear, when you spent your bus, train or tram trip eavesdropping - whether you wanted to or not - on dozens of not-so-juicy chats? No longer, alas. With everyone plugged into a device, playing Candy Crush or silently streaming last night's episode of Married At First Sight, you'd better hope nobody talks to you. You can be assured everyone else will be listening, if so. Shh!

Noticing even more sounds going missing? Book a free test Book a FREE hearing test

The Amplifon blog is our place to explore ideas and themes of interest. For professional audiology advice, please contact your local clinic for a consultation.

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