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Conserve the Sound: An Audio Museum of Extinct Technologies


Everyday devices once made sounds that have been forgotten over time. An online repository brings them back to life…

Only 15 years ago, the sound of a modem connecting to the internet was part of the soundtrack of our early days online. What about the metallic clacking of typewriters? The keys on analog calculators? Machines for rewinding VHS tapes? And the sounds of lots of other machines that have fallen into disuse?

Technological advances over the last century saw the rise and fall of numerous devices, media, and gadgets that passed through the lives of users and left but traces in the memory.

“Conserve the Sound” is an interactive museum that allows visitors to immerse themselves in technological nostalgia with audio clips of devices from the past: from airplane engines, to the  handles car windows, to electric razors, cameras, and alarm clocks. It’s a melancolic journey from 1910 through the first decades of the 21st century.

The museum is funded by the Film & Medienstifung NRW of Germany and thus, many of the objects presented are European in origin. But the resonance of the old phone, its carousel of numbers, the static of a television, the murmur of fans, the ticking of a stopwatch, and the “click” of the closing of a Nintendo console, will all be recalled to the memories of many visitors.

The project is also a good excuse for appreciating more of the sounds that make up our everyday lives. Though they’re not alive, such objects reflect our personalities, our experiences, and they’re encrypted in our brains along with the times and people of our pasts. Perhaps, in that moment of magical transfer, when a user transmits attitudes onto the interfaces of objects, they’re all just tools; more and less complex derivatives of wheels, levers, and pulleys of early hominids. This is perhaps why we form emotional relationships with objects, both with their images, and with the sounds they make when they’re operating. The keys of your computer, the sound of a teapot with boiling water, and the latch of an opening door, all resonate in the imagination with multiple meanings.

When you’re on the street, on public transport, at school, or in the office, pay attention to the sounds people make in using their devices: notifications from cell phones, the sounds of cars, the buzzings and rustle of doors, and machines. All of these constitute a discreet orchestra which, as technology advances, changes its audience along with its melodies.



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