New Museum Preserves “Extinct” Noises

Allison Guy
June 13th 2012

Growing up, I had a cockatiel that could mimic the bleeping cacophony of a dial-up connection with dead accuracy. I never stopped to think that my bird (still alive) preserves a valuable trace of our pre-broadband heritage. Just like Boa Sr, Thud the cockatiel could be the last "speaker" of an otherwise forgotten set of sounds.

Stepping into the void of noise is Brendan Chilcutt's Museum of Endangered Sounds. This online repository preserves defunct sounds as diverse as a Nokia ring tone, a fax machine and the preloaded game that came with Encarta encyclopedia. Rich in memory and resonance to members of a certain generation, these noises are a mere curiosity to younger people. "Curiosity" might even be a strong term. Without any cultural connections, the majority of these sounds have no intrinsic interest.

The museum skews towards technologies created within the last 20 years. It would be great if the museum were expanded to more distant sounds. Did Dr. Taylor's Manipulator vibrate with a particularly pleasing tone? Did the Antikythera Mechanism rattle in a familiar way to its users? And we're left to wonder if the pasilalinic-sympathetic compass made any noise at all.

Via Discover Magazine.

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