All of us grew up around tech different from what we have today, and many of us look back on those devices with fondness. But can you recall the exact sound your first Casio keyboard made, or the cadence of a rotary phone’s clicks? Conserve the Sound aims to, well, conserve the sound of gadgets like these so that future generations will know what it sounded like to put a cartridge in the NES.
It’s actually quite an old project at this point, having been funded first in 2013, but its collection has grown to a considerable size. The money came from German art institution Film & Medienstiftung NRW; the site was created (and is maintained) by creative house Chunderksen.
The whole thing is suitably minimal, much like an actual museum: you find objects either by browsing randomly or by finding a corresponding tag, and are presented with some straightforward imagery and a player loaded with the carefully captured sound of the device being operated.
Though the items themselves are banal, listening to these sounds of a bygone age is strangely addictive. They trigger memories or curiosity — was my Nintendo that squeaky? Didn’t my rotary phone click more? What kind was it anyway? I wonder if they have my old boombox… oh! A Viewmaster!
The collection has grown over the years and continues to grow; it now includes interviews with experts in various subjects on the importance of saving these sounds. You can even submit your own, if you like. “We welcome suggestions in general, sound suggestions, stories, anecdotes and of course collaborations,” write the creators.
I for one would love to revisit all the different modems and sounds I grew up using. 2400, 9600, 14.4, 28.8, all the way up to 56.6. Not exactly pleasant noises, admittedly, but I anticipate they will bring back a flood of memories, Proust-style, of BBSes, hours-long download times, and pirated screen savers.