The year is 1995, and I’m seven years old. I’ve just finished typing up my homework, and a few mechanical clunks later, it’s saved to a floppy disk, ready for printing at school tomorrow. I grab my headphones, and hit play on my Walkman: The Beach Boys – Greatest Hits. It’s an old tape that belonged to my dad, and despite Brian Wilson and co. forming their band almost 30 years before I was born, their bright harmonies never fail to bring a smile to my face.
We all have memories like this. Whether it was your first colour TV, or shiny new console, certain technologies have a special place in our hearts. Beyond their looks, the sounds associated with our favourite gadgets can usher in a powerful sense of nostalgia. We’ve rounded up some of our favourites below.
Here’s our tribute to the tech sounds of yesteryear:
Beeeeeepdeeeeeeepzghhhggggghghfchhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhzzzzzzzzzz. You might be inclined to think that a cat walked across the keyboard while drafting this, but in fact, this is the best representation we could come up with to put the 56k dial-up modem connection sound into words. This sequence opened up a magical portal to the internet – unless, of course, someone else in the house was using the phone. How times have changed…
If you grew up with a PC you’ll almost certainly recognise at least a few of these Windows startup sounds. This author is partial to Windows 95’s echoing chimes, surfacing memories of a big beige computer, giant CRT monitor and long nights spent playing games well past an acceptable hour for a school night. Which one’s your favourite?
Boasting a capacity of 720KB-1.44MB, floppy disks seem utterly minuscule compared to todays’ smartphones and their gigabytes of cavernous space. Before USB sticks and even CDs however, floppy discs provided an easy (not to mention noisy) way to transfer and backup data. The mechanical clicks and clacks may not have sounded pleasant, but as the video above proves, you can bring floppy disk drives together to create beautiful music, if desired.
Flashes of green. A thunderous crescendo. The vivid ‘X.’ Owners of the original Xbox console were treated to a powerful intro before diving into the gaming action. In our case, that meant strapping on our MJOLNIR armour and bringing the fight to the Covenant in Halo: Combat Evolved – one of the best FPS games ever made.
If you thought floppy disks owned the market for loud, old tech that can make music, think again. Dot matrix printers were slow and reliant on similar technology to a typewriter – namely, using impact against an ink-soaked ribbon to make marks against thin, fragile paper. Sure, they’re not as fancy as a modern-day 3D printer, but when was the last time you heard one of them blast out Eye of the Tiger?
One could argue that we still hear sounds close enough to typewriters today. If you’ve got a modern mechanical gaming keyboard then you’re probably already enjoying the satisfying thunks and clunks of its chunky keys – but we’d wager you don’t hear that satisfying ‘ding’ at the start of every new line.
If you’re of a certain age, you may recall a time where you’d rush home from school, wolf down some food, blitz through your homework, and jump straight onto MSN Messenger, whiling away the evening talking to your friends and trying to come up with witty jokes to impress your crush. Today, instant messaging is everywhere, but before smartphones, programs like Messenger were the backbone of out-of-school comms.
Long before streaming sites, Blu-rays and DVDs, we had to make do with honest to goodness tapes to enjoy films and home movies at home. We even had to rewind/forward the tape reels to skip through sections. Thankfully, VHS players were there to do all of this for us – not quietly or fast, mind, but even with the grainy sub-HD picture, they hold a soft spot in our hearts. Chances are you’ve still got one lying around somewhere too – why not take it for a literal spin?
These solid plastic phones were anything but smart, but there’s something extremely satisfying about picking a number, and rotating the dial round before it smoothly whirred back with a satisfying click. The physical bells inside which rang out loud and clear weren’t too shabby either, and likely make up the ringtone in the fancy smartphone currently on your desk too.
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