Lost Sounds

Recently, I’ve been thinking about sounds that have been lost. You know, things that were once commonly heard and are now either completely lost, literally unheard of, or at least endangered.

For example, the sound of a flock of passenger pigeons. They used to flock in their millions or even hundreds of millions and that must have made a unique and characteristic sound. Now no one living has ever heard that sound. Someone may have heard something like it but not that precise sound.

A record skipping.

In technology there are all sorts of examples of lost or endangered sounds. The sound of a manual typewriter, operated by a skilled practitioner. An acoustical modem raising carrier detect. A busy signal.

Another example: I have a copy of a phonograph record of my mom and dad singing a duet. Now it’s so worn as to be inaudible. It’s lost.

Other examples?

16 comments… add one
  • Drew Link

    “A record skipping.”

    Not in this household…..

  • The sound of a rotary dial telephone ringing.

  • For me, I miss the sounds of train horns / engines from the old adjacent tracks, the blasts from large ships and barges navigating the nearby Delta, the chimes heard from the local University clock tower at the top of each hour, roosters crowing in the morning, cows mooing throughout the day, and the cries from bands of seagulls flying over, but that’s mainly because I moved away from the San Joaquin Delta Valley. Today those sounds have been replaced by the sounds of boom-booms from car stereo’s vibrating, shaking entire vehicles, and car / truck engines rumbling down the nearby highway 24/7. I long for the old times, in a place I once called home.

  • Ben Wolf Link

    @Doug Mataconis

    We’ve pretty much lost the sound of a dial-up modem, and those were ubiquitous only a decade ago.

  • michael reynolds Link

    Can opener puncturing beer can.
    Movie film sprockets.
    The ding-ding of old-fashioned gas pumps.
    Cutting the pages of a book.
    The sounds of rigging on old wooden sailing ships.
    The two distinct explosions of a musket.
    The screams of burning Zeppelin passengers?

  • michael reynolds Link

    The clicking and whirring of a VHS cassette going into the player.
    Levering of metal ice cube trays.
    Wooden wagon wheels (Amish country excepted.)
    Butter churn.
    Hammer on anvil (Again: Amish exception. And cowboy movies.)
    Shoveling of coal.

  • Sam Link

    15 kHz whine from a tube tv (might be lost to me anyway)
    Dot matrix printer
    Your neighbor’s voice on the party line

  • jan Link

    The rustle of wheat in a breeze
    The ratcheting sound of the rotary dial as you are finger hooking each number
    The flutter of sheets drying on an outside clothes line
    The whistle blowing sound of work ending for the midnight shift at the old aircraft plant I lived near.

  • Icepick Link

    The sound of a rotary dial telephone ringing.

    I still hear that one – a fair number of us have used that as the ring-tone on our newer phones. (I actually haven’t used that one in a few years, but I heard one just last Monday night.)

    Something lost: The sound of one of those old black ATT phones being slammed down on its cradle. You just can’t slam a modern phone with any effect these days. Press the button to disconnect and they don’t even hear a click on the other side. And even if you wanted to slam the phone down before disconnecting you wouldn’t anyway, because the phones aren’t solid enough or they’re too damned expensive to risk breaking.

  • steve Link

    The V-8, with glass packs.
    The percolator.


  • Larry Link

    The silence of Sundays past…

  • Icepick Link

    The sound of a springboard diving board at a backyard pool. Or a public pool!

  • Cassette and 8-track tapes – the sound of inserting them and the quiet whir they make while playing.

    Spring-operated wall clocks. ( I have one, but need to get it restored to working order).

    Dolby Pro Logic

    Kids shooting bb guns

    Milli Vanilli. Could have a whole category for bad/forgotten musical acts.

    Any number of pinball machines. I’d put The Black Knight at the top of the list.

    Old school video games. Joust, Defender, Robotron, Pac man, etc.

  • There was that little “bloop” at movie theaters when the film was switched from one reel to another.

  • Icepick Link

    Old school video games. Joust, Defender, Robotron, Pac man, etc.

    Those games can still be found. I’ve got a couple of small devices to plug into my TV to play some of them. I still see those video games around here and there.

    And I had a friend who got his hands on a video game cabinet. He built his own machine with it, got the codes, and you could literally play a couple of thousand or so games on it. (You want to play Piranha? He had it. Same with things like BurgerTime.) He finally sold it to make space in his garage. I thought it was one of the great tragedies of our time, myself – it was the last place I knew of where I could play Wizard of Wor. So sad that he sold it and didn’t give me a chance to buy it….

  • T Link

    The sound of a lonesome train at night………

    And the sound of a whistle letting everyone off work at the factory…

Leave a Comment