Obsolete Sounds is a new project that creator Cities and Memory claims is “the world’s largest collection of obsolete and disappearing sounds.” It consists of more than 150 sounds that are becoming increasingly rare, ranging from sounds used in retro video games, recordings of old-fashioned transportation, and numerous mechanical sounds from outdated hardware.
Of course, the first sound clip I looked for was the sound of an old 56K modem connecting to the internet, which thankfully is present and accounted for. “In the 1990s, computers screamed every time you went online. That was a foreshadowing’, was how a tweet recently described the piercing scream.
“Obsolete Sounds is designed… to highlight those sounds worth preserving”
Other sounds you may want to hear include the classic Nokia ring tone of the 5120 phone, the humming staccato of an old Seagate hard drive spinning, and an old analog radio being tuned. If you’re a fan of mechanical keyboards, I suggest you stay away from the recording of an Apple iBook Duo 230, the recording of which has the most horribly spongy keystrokes I’ve ever heard. Perhaps you could watch one of the seven typewriter recordings instead.
In addition to the sounds themselves, Cities and Memory has also published remixes of each of them from a collection of over 150 musicians and sound artists. They are designed to reflect on ‘the memories and feelings these sounds evoke’.
“Obsolete Sounds is designed to draw attention to the disappearing soundscapes of the world, to highlight those sounds that are worth preserving because they are part of our collective cultural heritage – and to help us think about how we can before it’s too late,” he said. Stuart Fowkes, founder of Cities and Memory. In all, the organization has collected more than 5,000 sounds from more than 1,000 artists around the world, including as part of a previous project that attempted to record sounds from Covid-19 lockdowns.
You can listen to them yourself here.