Photo: Courtesy John Smith/Corbis; Audio: Courtesy Museum of Electronic Sounds
A generation of electronics is going extinct, and its death rattle sounds like a rotary phone. Or the static of a cathode-ray-tube TV. Or the banshee screech of a dot-matrix printer. For many of us, those sounds can elicit waves of nostalgia, yet as new technology becomes sleek and silent, we’re in danger of losing those sense memories. Thankfully, three friends are taking steps to preserve the soundtrack of bygone eras. Welcome to the Museum of Endangered Sounds.
Since April, the digital archive—at SaveTheSounds.info—has been collecting noises from obsolete tech like floppy-disc drives and Speak & Spell toys. “We highlight sound as a trigger effect,” says Phil Hadad, 28, a museum cofounder. You hear it and you’re transported back to your formative years. For Hadad and his fellow archivists—Marybeth Ledesma, 24, and Greg Elwood, 27—those mnemonic bytes might be the warm descending bleeps from a Nokia ringtone or that unforgettable jagged warble of a 56K modem. (“It reminds me of wanting to throw my computer out the window,” Ledesma says.)
The three operate under the collective nom de plume of Brendan Chilcutt, a futurist geek with an overbite and eight gerbils who welcomes suggestions via tweet and email. Because who else will school Gen Y’s offspring in the ways of Encarta Mind Maze and the ZX Spectrum? If their project catches on, someday we’ll all be nonagenarians on a front porch somewhere, idly whistling Brian Eno’s startup music for Windows 95.