The shift away from mechanical devices toward digital ones with invisible or silent interfaces is generally touted as progress. But the paradox of a touch screen is that it gives you a lot less to actually feel than its clunkier predecessor.
That’s why Brendan Chilcutt established his Museum of Endangered Sounds. He wanted to preserve the clicks and crackles of once ubiquitous but fast disappearing mechanical gadgets.
“Imagine a world where we never again hear the symphonic startup of a Windows 95 machine,” Chilcutt writes on his site. “Imagine generations of children unacquainted with the chattering of angels lodged deep within the recesses of an old cathode ray tube TV. And when the entire world has adopted devices with sleek, silent touch interfaces, where will we turn for the sound of fingers striking QWERTY keypads? Tell me that. And tell me: Who will play my GameBoy when I’m gone?”
Tongue-in-cheek, perhaps. But it evokes a time when one could actually disassemble an appliance, explore its insides, and maybe even put it back together again. And sure, trying to reinvigorate a malfunctioning NES cartridge by blowing on it is a crude strategy. But it is a deeply human way of interacting with technology. And it’s something you can touch, feel, and yes, hear.
His online archive ensures that everything from the spin of a rotary phone to the screech of a dial-up modem can live on beyond our collective electronic sense memory. Take comfort in knowing that future generations can experience the hissing soundtrack of our simpler time.