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What Did The Past Sound Like?

Posted June 15, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes

Growing up in the early ‘90s, my family still had a big cream-colored rotary phone stuck to our kitchen wall. At the time I didn’t realize that these phones were pretty outdated and that most other homes already had pushbutton phones. I still remember its sounds: the ratcheting of the dial returning after selecting a number, and the decidedly analog ringing bells.

A German initiative is concerned enough with these outmoded sounds that they’re archiving them. Conserve the Sound describes itself as “an online museum for vanishing and endangered sounds.” The project is run by CHUNDERKSEN, a film production and communication design firm.

Conserve the Sound’s website organizes captured sounds by decade and object type, and they’re all freely available. The group captured sounds from typewriters, desk fans, stopwatches, a host of film cameras, kitchen gadgets, phones, the stamping of a library book, and even the filling of a milk can. (I’ll admit I’ve never been privy to this sound, but it’s pretty close to what I imagined.)

Preserving objects, as museums have been for thousands of years, makes a lot of sense to me, but I’ve never thought of preserving sound. On one hand it’s interesting to generations younger than mine, who’ve never heard a cassette tape jam or a Polaroid camera spit out a picture. Some of them seem to fall a little flat, though—I don’t find the clicking of buttons on a boombox or a running kitchen blender particularly worthy of preservation, for example. But who knows: maybe that’s because I grew up with them.

Image credit: Amanda / CC BY-ND 2.0

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#1

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 5:40 AM

There was an interesting programme on UK television a few months back (it doesn't happen often!):

During the First World War, German technicians carried out sound recordings to correlate the accents and dialect words spoken by captured British soldiers with districts of origin. The military idea was towards building a sound archive for training Germans to become indistinguishable when conversing with British citizens, for infiltration pending an invasion. The archive was kept on traditional flat record discs in a museum on the eastern side of the city of Berlin.

A dialect coach made enquiries and the content of the archive was made available to her, it having remained untouched, practically, for around a century. The archive, containing the ways people spoke all those years ago, is of such national importance that a copy has been archived in the British Museum.

While it is possible to distinguish with ease the way written language changes over the years, the existence of an archive of the spoken voice is extremely unusual.

In summary, spoken language has softened since those times, and local dialect words fall into disuse, as one might expect with globalisation and improving communications.

Yes, sounds do change over time!

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#8
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 6:04 PM

Interesting sub subject being some time ago a few of us locals got into a discussion about local dialect and general information coaching being used for witness protection transplants being we all know one or more people whose general actions Vs stories do not check out regarding who they claim to be and from where.

The problem is no one can fluidly fake a dialect and knowledge base did not grow up in. Suspected people have a tendency towards too many slight inconsistencies in obvious non coached local knowledge of the area and what they may be doing for a living it becomes a point of suspicion.

I had a former manager that most every person who worked around him suspected of being a witness protection transplant. Who he claimed to be and what he claimed to have done all his life and where had way too many holes in it to add up.

He was well known for being a dimwit and general lying untrustable sack of crap which made his attempts to hold up a credible and consistent background story that could pass local knowledge base confirmation scrutiny impossible. He was just not that smart (he thought he was but no one else did) and his nature to lie and stab anyone in the back whenever he felt it would benefit him was obvious.

The same tiny but obvious character and local knowledge plus life story points that give most everyone here suspicions of certain people for the same reasons for being here.

You can not have worked in the Texas oil fields for 20 years driving truck then have worked in the North dakota oil fields for 20 more (when they were not active more than 5 - 7 years earlier) doing the same work for a suposed large company (that does not exist by confirmable knowledge only a local would have) in a small town that has less than 100 people (only a fact only local would know about) when you are less than 50 years old plus anyone who has any truck driving background can pick you out in a day as being too stupid to have ever held a truck driving job for 40 years to begin with.

Maybe someone can fake it in a large city or general dense urban area but not out here.

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#10
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 11:33 PM

Two words.:

Lilly

Hammer

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#12
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 11:40 PM

Doesn't bring up anything in a google search besides Lillehammer France information.

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#20
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 11:45 AM

It was a series I streamed a couple years ago or so. About that very situation. Funny/good stuff.

a little absurd

I'm sure I spelt it rong.

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#21
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 11:47 AM

Lilyhammer

looks interesting

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#25
In reply to #10

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 1:07 PM

... (( )) ... is that , as opposed to:

Ninny

Hammer

(( ninnyhammer ))

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#2

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 7:10 AM

There are sounds that are preserved on 5,000 year old pottery.

Quite interesting.... it appears the sounds were recorded as the potter was making their pottery on the wheel, just like Edison's first recording device. It may not be precise or clear, but at the time the pottery was made the environment was imprinted onto the pottery itself.

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#23
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 12:53 PM

I don't know, to me it seems unlikely that sound vibrations from a conversation would vibrate the tools enough to imprint the turning clay. I would think that if there were anything recorded, it would be noise from the bearings of the potter's wheel. (I can't imagine that the bearings were all that good that long ago.) The human brain has a tendency to hear voices in random noise, much like seeing faces in random patterns. It's a pattern matching thing.

MythBusters tried to intentionally recreate the effect but were only able to pick up noise.

http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/mythbusters/mythbusters-database/ancient-voices-recorded-into-pottery/

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#26
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 1:22 PM

It actually recorded the potter telling a dirty joke,.... plain as day!

in all seriousness....

... to me it seems unlikely that sound vibrations from a conversation would vibrate the tools enough to imprint the turning clay. I would ...

That's true... If you read how the pottery was made. With basically a stick (stylus) against the clay as its forming, it could record bits and pieces... or something???, like the rattling of the patter's wheel. And if they used glazing, all would be lost.

I just though I'd share this, for a number of reason's.

1.) as it was on topic.

2.) When I first learned of it, I knew, I'd be able to use it,... some day.

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#27
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 2:18 PM

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#3

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 10:23 AM

I've long regretted not preserving the sounds of the linoleum factory where I worked during college vacations in the 70's. One machine had a belt-driven pulley about 5 ft diameter, which scraped against a sheet steel guard at every rev (about 12 rpm). It ran day and night (I worked up to 20hrs shifts sometimes). I can till hear it ringing through my head on quiet nights. That part of the factory was demolished about 35 years ago.

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#4
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 10:27 AM

I can till hear it ringing through my head on quiet nights.

well, in a way, it still preserved... we just have to figure out how to preserved JohnDG:

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#14
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 6:27 AM

...or download before demise, perhaps?

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#5

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 12:49 PM

When I was a kid my Dad had a 78 RPM record of a Ford sedan being started and driven for a few minutes with a manual shift transmission, then braked to a stop and shut off. The Ford would likely have been from the late 1940s or early 1950s. There was no speaking, nor any other sound on the record, just the sound of the car.

Needless to say, it was a really boring record to listen to. Nevertheless, I kind of miss it.

I'm not sure why my Dad even had it. Perhaps it was a sound effects record used for testing phonograph systems. (?)

Sadly, the record was lost during a fire that burned items in the attic. (No one was injured.)

Some sounds already lost to most people are the crack and hum of a CRT TV set being switched on. Along with it, we've lost the CONELRAD emergency warning system and (I think in most places) the National Anthem being played 'at the end of the broadcast day'.

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#6
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 12:54 PM

I have a 78 RPM record of Spike Jones song 'BeetleBaum",... or Bomb... listened to it as a kid,... I loved it.

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#7
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 4:48 PM

I had "Dark Town Poker Club" (78) c/o my mum and dad. Also "Woodman Spare That Tree".

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#22
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 12:49 PM

My Dad had a lot of other great 78s, including 'Donkey Serenade' by Allan Jones. Loved that song as a kid. It wasn't until later as an adult that I realized what an amazing singer he was.

Two of my other favorites were 'Green Door' by Jim Lowe, and 'This Old House' by Rosemary Clooney. Man, I miss those records. Thank goodness for YouTube.

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#24
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 12:57 PM

Ah, memories!

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#9

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 6:04 PM

Old piano player rolls preserve the original sounds of famous musicians before recordings. The clickity clack of the morse code key deserves preservation; also the sound of mighty steam locomotives, pile drivers and the ping of sonar.

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#11

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/15/2017 11:35 PM

Great thread subject! A couple come to mind - along with that ratcheting dial phone, the "dial tone" itself. Kids won't know what a "dial tone" is, or to "dial". I guess "busy signals" are going away - they go to voice mail.

Another sound you rarely hear today - the sort of Theremin swoop of an old radio being tuned in. I could probably find some examples from old movies on youtube.

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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 1:00 AM

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#15
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 6:29 AM

"Argo Transacord" - what bliss!

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#16
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 9:28 AM

I still have and listen to several CDs of these sounds, but then I'm a steam lover. I keep a 400 lb steam engine in my Family Room. Great conversation starter.

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#17

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 10:29 AM

Ours was wood with a fixed piece mounted on the wall we spoke into and a corded handle we put to our ear. The sound of our ring on the party line was a long and two shorts from the bells

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#18

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 11:04 AM

How about:

The "gedunk" sound of a Coke bottle dropping as it vends?

The snap as an old black and white TV's picture collapses in to a blue dot?

The sound of the tuner as you change channels on that same TV?

In the early 60's the sound of the dial tone and busy signal changed. The busy signal used to be a buzz buzz sound. I don't remember what the dial tone used to sound like.... prime example.

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#19
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/16/2017 11:17 AM

The reaction of a 12 year old, after a hymn has finished and everything is quite, a "fart in church"

but then again,... that's not really past sounds...

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#28

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/17/2017 1:45 PM

May've already been said, but sounds of a matrix printer and a line printer should be preserved.

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#32
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/17/2017 10:36 PM

First job, we had (2) wide body JDL's for printing up to 'C' size drawings. I used to love that sound, made you thing you were productive. Both printers going.... within 2 years, I hated and despised that sound.

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#29

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/17/2017 4:38 PM

Not a sound but a smell. Old vacuum tube amplifier warming up that been unused for near a decade.

Just got a old Heathkit FM-4 tube radio working and set it up with one of my old vacuum tube PA amplifiers.

Mono three channel audio on a 10 watt vacuum tube amp doesn't do half bad!

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#30
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/17/2017 5:01 PM

Smell is mostly slow-roasted dust

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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/17/2017 7:37 PM
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#34
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/18/2017 7:56 PM

Mimeograph

Metronome

Marbles

.. the sound of a record at the end.

ffffffffffffiip.. ffffffffffffiip.. ffffffffffffiip.. ffffffffffffiip..

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#33

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/18/2017 12:03 PM

Here are some sounds from the past. (Today's kids are still trying to figure out how you send a text with a rotary phone.)

http://mentalfloss.com/article/29230/11-sounds-your-kids-have-probably-never-heard

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#35
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/19/2017 4:43 AM

Another sound I remember well from a temporary job when I was a student was from an AEI press shop, where I was employed making parts for .... rotary 'phone dials!

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#36
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/19/2017 7:37 AM

Speaking of rotary phones,... I recall the party line,... and that days version of social media was an old woman who was always listened in on it. And it then spread from there.

You always knew when she was listening because you heard that 'clik-click'.

I remember my brother and his friends getting po'd from that his friend when he was talking to his friends. He brought in a brass whistle from a steam engine... and when he heard that 'clik-click'.

It was either that or started a very far fetched rumor.

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#37
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/19/2017 7:14 PM

There must have been one of those old hens on every party line being I have heard that same story countless times over the years.

And same as you, they had ways of dealing with them too! So and so has XYZ disease or even died or went to jail or stole whatever from so and so when none of it was true.

Only find the rumor was all over the local town a day or two later making whomever spread it look like a gossiping old fool and whomever believed them look even dumber for having listened.

Rather like facebook or whatever social media now but it took two - three days for the gossip and outright lies to get spread instead of 20 minutes.

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#38
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

06/19/2017 8:06 PM

The juicier the gossip the faster it traveled.

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#39

Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

07/13/2017 10:45 PM

Funny, on the radio the other day I heard the President giving a press conference overseas. When there was a break in the speech, I heard the incessant clicking of cameras. I thought, "Are they still using Speed Graphics in the press?" Of course not, they're using digital cameras now, and they don't make any noise--except the old fashioned 'camera' noise that is programmed into them.

I suppose that the shutter noise will be preserved forever, not only in cameras, but in our phones, too! I do wonder, however, if the younger generation will ever question why a digital camera makes noise...

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#40
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Re: What Did The Past Sound Like?

07/13/2017 11:23 PM

The reason for that is If it didn't make a sound, it would leave you wondering if did it take a picture.

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