Some websites are created in minutes, some in days, some in years. And then there are the labors of love which start out small and insignificant before building into something that total more than the sum of their parts; simple ideas that garner attention and intrigues a whole generation of technology-loving geeks. The Museum Of Endangered Sounds hasn’t quite reached that level yet, but it really should do.
The Museum Of Endangered Sounds is an effort to preserve the dying sounds of old technology for future generations. And it’s a website that has already captured the imaginations of many people eager to see the sounds of their pasts retained for their children and their children’s children to hear for many years to come.
Technology – Always Moving On
Technology is always moving on, whether we want it to or not. Despite the fact that naysayers throughout the ages have declared that “everything that can be invented has been invented,” scientists, engineers, technicians, and visionaries have always managed to move things on another step or two. There are definite cycles to technological advancement, often escalated by one particular innovation, but the lulls are few and far between.
This isn’t all positive however, as it means we as a species are always seeking out the next big thing. We’re never quite happy with what we have, keeping one eye fixed firmly on the future looking for the next technological improvement in whatever field we’re interested in.
For instance, as soon as the Xbox was released, people started speculating over the Xbox 360. And Apple has managed to build this anticipation into its product line-up, teasing each annual update by, well, staying completely silent and letting leaks do the talking.
The Sound Of Silence
There are people out there collecting the hardware from past generations, and it’s a noble cause assuming they don’t end up selling the lot on eBay as soon as the prices spike. But hardware is prone to failure, rust, fire-damage, and a lot more besides. Perhaps it’s better to focus on preserving just one aspect of this old technology.
The Museum Of Endangered Sounds exists for that reason; collecting, preserving, and exhibiting the sounds of gadgets and gizmos that have outlived their usefulness and been superseded by newer versions.
The website located at savethesounds.info is owned and operated by Brendan Chilcutt, or at least that’s the suggestion. He – it turns out he is actually a fabrication, a geeky mascot the actual creators of the site hide behind – started the site in January 2012 after coming to the realization that the sounds of technology once cherished are at risk of being lost forever.
By 2015 Chilcutt hopes to have collected all the sounds he wants to save for the future, and will then spend the next seven years “developing the proper markup language to reinterpret the sounds as a binary composition.” This is clearly a major undertaking inspired by an absolute passion for technology.
There are a range of sounds embedded into the museum’s homepage, all of which are accompanied by an animation depicting the product. By clicking on the image you start the sound playing, and it will repeat ad nauseum until pressed once again. The images spread through this article show four sets of three products that have had their sounds preserved so far.
You can either play one sound at a time while trying to figure out what product it is, or you can play more than one at a time, creating a kind of industrial cacophony that I tried and failed to turn into any kind of melodious harmony. Either way, when you come across a sound you recognize, the wave of nostalgia that crashes over you can be quite intense.
Repository or Art?
The question I have is whether this is actually a repository of endangered sounds or something more akin to an art project. In response to the question, “Do you view this as an art project in any way?” the site’s creators recently told The Huffington Post, “Sure. It’s definitely an art project. We just never expected to find such an audience.” But everything else uttered in the interview suggests otherwise.
I suspect this is part-art project, part-passionate attempt to save endangered sounds from old technology dying forever, never to be heard by a human ear again. Coupled with the fact that the whole site can be used as an industrial music maker, the Museum Of Endangered Sounds is clearly a multi-faceted website whose usefulness is in the eye of the beholder.
At the time of writing there are just 27 entries preserved and exhibited in the Museum Of Endangered Sounds, but there are clearly many more that deserve a place in the line-up. What sound would you like to see saved for future generations to hear? Is there a particular piece of consumer tech, beloved gadget, or Web service that emits a sound summing up a period of your life?
As always we’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject at hand, so please leave a comment below. I suspect the three people who Brendan Chilcutt serves as collective alter-ego to will read this article, and your suggestion for an endangered sound could then feasibly make it into the museum. So think carefully about what sounds you personally would like preserved for ever more.