13 Tech Sounds You Don't Hear Anymore

If you remember what a modem sounds like, chances are you're old. And that's not the only tech sound that's being quickly forgotten. Our friends at LaptopMag have complied a list of noises that may soon disappear from the collective nerd consciousness.

As we move toward an age of quiet gadgets that do everything possible not to get in our way, we're losing our appreciation for all the magic under the hood. Not long ago, the sounds our devices made reminded us that they were doing something truly important, whether that task was connecting us to the Internet or bringing us back to the beginning of our favourite VHS movies.

A child born today has a greater chance of hearing a real cloned dinosaur roar than a busy signal. But for those of us who lived through the beginning of the PC revolution, these 13 tech sounds will always be hardcoded into our memories.

The Mac OS "Uh-Oh" Sound

Getting error messages is bad enough, but having your computer literally yell at you every time you hit the wrong key is real torture. Nevertheless, many Mac users were amused by the sound of a demonic chipmunk screaming "uh-oh" when they experienced an error. It was cute maybe the first 300 times. [LISTEN]

VHS Rewind

Long before the age of the internet, we rented tapes from the video store and lived in constant fear that, if we forgot to be kind and rewind them, we'd get charged a penalty. So before we could grab that nearly overdue copy of "Sorority Babes at the Slimeball Bowl-a-Rama," jump in the car, and run three red lights to get to Blockbuster in time to avoid a late fee, we had to sit through five minutes of tape whirring as we waited for the VCR to bring our tape back to the beginning. The most satisfying part of the rewind sound was how the whirring noises seemed to get louder as the gears sped up in their race back to the beginning of the tape. [LISTEN]

The Whir Of A Floppy Disk Drive

One thing that's missing from today's high-speed computing experience is the sense of anticipation. Back in the 80s and even the 90s, we waited with bated breath as our PCs tried to read our data off of floppy disks. As the loud drive head whirred, we crossed our fingers and hoped that a scratch or magnetic exposure hadn't trashed our term paper. A scraping noise could spell impending doom. [LISTEN]

Dial-Up Modem Handshake

In the age of 3G and fibre optics, it's hard to remember a time when we had to use copper phone lines to dial up to our Internet services. But back in the day, we had to enter a local number into our computer's dialer and then listen as our 2400-baud modem dialed the phone, the phone rang, and then the two modems made a long dance of beeps and boings that sounded more like Ricochet Rabbit getting into a gunfight or Fred Flintstone foot-driving his car than two finely tuned computers connecting. [LISTEN]

Dial Tone

Back in the old days of copper phone wire and real live phone operators, you'd hear a dial tone every time you picked up the phone, just to let you know that you had an active connection. If you didn't act quickly and dial, the phone would get angry at you and start making louder beeps to get your attention. Today, some VoIP phones still give you a dial tone as a way of emulating that past, but in reality, the need for this noise disappeared the minute people started using digital methods of communication. Still, it was always wonderful to pick up your phone and hear the comforting dial tone that let you know that, yes, you still had service, even when the power in your house was out. [LISTEN]

Busy Signal

Remember the days when you had to call a number over and over again just to get through? With services like voicemail and call waiting coming standard today, you never hit a dead end when you dial a friend. But not too long ago, you could be dialling your mum to tell her that you just got engaged and be blocked by the busy signal — that shrill-voiced virtual bouncer — over and over again, because she was on the phone with your aunt. [LISTEN]

Rotary Phone Winding

Today, our mobile phones make tones when we hit the numbers just for our own edification, because in reality, the dialling is all digital. However, back in the days before buttons, we had the pleasant, but time-consuming task of turning a rotary dial to make calls. It's hard not to miss the hypnotic whirring noise that the dial made as it slowly returned to position after you moved it down to a high number like eight or nine. [LISTEN]

Boot-Up Beeps

Because the time you spend waiting for your computer to start is wasted time, many computer-makers don't want to make the boot process any more conspicuous than it has to be. But back in the day, every computer made a satisfying beep noise as soon as you hit the power button. A single beep noise was music to the ears because it meant the computer is "good to go." Double beeps or triple beeps meant there was something wrong.

"You've Got Mail!"

Remember when you actually wanted to receive email? Today, our inboxes are an unholy mixture of Viagra spam and Nigerian banking scams, with a sprinkle of legitimate correspondence thrown in. But back when the Web was new and AOL was the most popular ISP, users couldn't wait to hear the sound of a man's voice saying "you've got mail" each and every time a new message arrived. [LISTEN]

Windows 95 Shutdown Sound

Before Windows 95 launched, PC users always knew exactly when their computers were powered down. With earlier versions of Windows and DOS, you'd simply exit your program to a command prompt, hit the power button and watch as your computer turned off immediately. Starting with Windows 95, users had to actually hit a shutdown button and wait anywhere from seconds to more than a minute for the computer to shut off. The musical shutdown sound let you know that, even if you were across the room, your PC was successfully turning off, rather than getting stuck. [LISTEN]

Dot Matrix Printout

Long before the days of colour laser printers that churn out 30 pages a minute, we had dot matrix printing. There was something hypnotically relaxing about the sound of the chirpy print head moving from left to right as reams of paper slowly pulled past it. We could meditate to that sound. [LISTEN]

CRT TV On And Off Sound

Today, our flat-panel TVs and monitors turn on and off in silence. Unless they have very conspicuous status lights, we often can't tell whether our screens are on or off. With tube TVs, there was the wonderful pop of the tube powering up and the crack of it powering down.

Clicky Keyboard

While some gamers and typing traditionalists still use mechanical keyboards, all notebooks and most desktops today come with loathsomely laconic letters. When IBM ruled the desktop, PC keyboards produced a terrific tactile sound for every key you hit. To serious typists, this symphony of springs is more beautiful than Beethoven's Ninth, because it gives them audible feedback that their strokes have registered. [LISTEN]

Top Image Credit: Markus Gann/Shutterstock

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Comments

    The "pprrraaaaissse Jeeeesus" sound at the end of each level of Crystal Quest. I miss that.

    The Zx spectrum loading noise

    I turn 27 tomorrow and thanks to giz i now know im old cause ive been around for all of these sounds

    I have dial up modem handshake as my ringtone. Seeing people get all misty-eyed and nostalgic, or the younger ones asking "what's that?" is priceless.

      No it isn't, its kinda sad.

        Not as sad as trolling discussion threads to make pointless, derisory comments...

      What a wonderful idea! I might have to try that one myself...

      HAHA! young peple go "Whats that?" ... that is really funny for some reason

      As soon as I started reading this article, I thought to myself, "I know what my next ringtone will be". Looks like you beat me to it. I have the new S3, and all it comes with is awful music tones.

    I remember being disappointed when we tried AOL back in the dial up days and they changed the Australian version to a woman saying "You've got email" rather than the "You've got mail" I was expecting, ahh the little things

    You really need to have some of the older sounds there to be really nostalgic.

    RLL or MFM voice coil hard disks are a sound I really miss.
    2400 baud modem sounds rather than 56k
    Fax negotiating
    just to name 3 :)

    Nothing beats the old whir and "click click" sound of an Amiga 500 floppy disc loading. Shit, I'm getting old.

      You could tell what version of Workbench was running by the sound of the floppy. If there was a 1 second whirr, followed by whirr-whirr, you knew it was 1.2. Slightly shorter whirs for 1.3.. I could show how sad I am by breaking down the other versions, but you get the point

    Well I certainly enjoyed watching my dog wander around the room tilting his head from side to side trying to work-out what on earth those beeps and clicks were and where the hell they're coming from.

    (The wireless printer's another popular passtime for the both of us!)

      Oh, and the periodic clicking of the empty drive while it waited for you to feed it!

    Yeah, my dial up MOdulator-DEModulator is on mute.

    Hear dial tones all the time.

    Also what is with this god damn "thing you don't hear"/"Thing you don't see"/"Thing you won't use" any more articles!!!

      I think they just want us to feel old and depressed so we kill ourselves so the young hipsters get all the money. Not sure... but it's a possibility ;)

    What I remember the windows 95 start up noise sounding like...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=fvwp&v=D-kVjGWq4L4

    Nice article. Now Im on an Youtube mission to hear the sounds of yesteryear, JOY!

    Didn't know the "uh-oh" noise was a mac thing. I thought it was aan "icq" thing. Something I remember going off every 10 seconds when my sister wss on the net on our windows 3.1 pc

      Me too. Uh-Oh was an ICQ message but from memory started around 1995. Good to see it is making a come back.

      Yep, ICQ association all the way for me too. Then again I never had any dealings with Macs so that would be why I don't associate it with them.

      Such an annoying sound! Especially when you got several quick messages sent in succession...

    ZIP Disk click of death, glad I don't hear that anymore :)

    Could have done with removing the dial tone and busy signal. Most Australian's still rely on copper and, in any case, the Australian dial tone and busy signal sounds different to this. Why use .au if you're not going to make these type of changes to posts?

    I am a 20 year old university student and I am pleased to say I still use a Rotary Dial telephone, you just have to move a couple of the wires inside to get them to work on modern phone lines.

    "If you remember what a modem sounds like, chances are you’re old"
    Dammit, I'm 18, don't tell me that.

    The music from The Sims 1

    The Inserting-Removing PCMCIA card sound...

    The *clonk* of a CRT monitor being degaussed.

    I'm 16 and I remember dial-up. It's not THAT damn old, c'mon now.

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