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How Many Of These 25 Retro Tech Sounds Do You Remember?

Rob Nightingale 07-10-2015

It’s intriguing how easily certain sounds can invoke deep nostalgia. Whether these old tech sounds bring back a longing for the past, or give rise to pent up frustrations and impatience, they’re certainly the sounds of a bye-gone era.


Over the past few decades, technology has invaded every facet of our lives. This invasion has inevitably been intertwined with a host of sounds 5 Nostalgic Sounds of the Technology Many People Miss For tech geeks, the five most exciting sounds are one of the nostalgic technology sounds described in this article. Read More and jingles that can separate generations. The Windows start up sound, for instance, has gone through a fascinating evolution The Forgotten Retro Sounds of the Early Windows Era This year marks the release of the final Windows version. 20 years earlier, Windows 95 was born. Do you remember how it sounded? Join us on a nostalgic audio trip down memory lane. Read More .

Where now we have the smooth glides of an inkjet, we used to bear the screeching of a dot matrix. Where we now enjoy the soothing harmonies of default ringtones, we used to have the squealing beeps of the Nokia. The list, as you can see below, goes on.

Which of the following, aged tech sounds, do you remember? Which other sounds take you back?

Waiting To Save A Document

One of the greatest contributions to increased patience during the 90s, I believe, was the incessant waiting required whenever you had to use a Floppy Disk.  That <1.44mb of data, sauntering onto your desktop, accompanied by this iconic sound. Bliss. Believe it or not, floppy disks still have their uses 5 Useful Things You Can Create With Your Old Floppy Disks Read More today.

Powering Up The PS1

Within 9 years and six months of its launch on December 3 1994, Sony had shipped more than 100 million units of the first generation PlayStation. Imagine the number of psyches this short sound sequence must have burrowed into.


Connecting To Dial-Up

This sound signals those tentative few seconds where you’d find out if you could actually connect today. And if you did, that’d mean no calls would be able to make it to your landline.  For some then, this sound signals trepidation. For others, it’s the sound of the Internet revolution just beginning.

Calling A Busy Number

Rather than being forwarded to voicemail, this is the frustrating sound we had to deal with when the person we were trying to converse with was too busy to reciprocate.

Playing Tetris

Either this, or Super Mario, may just be the most iconic video game soundtrack ever written. As soon as it’s heard, the tricks of the dedicated Tetris maestro will pour forth from forgotten memories to spawn a new addiction. Luckily, the game is still available on iOS and Android. There are plenty of other similar games you can play for free online, too.

Chatting On MSN Messenger

For those, like me, who’s early teenage years were based around an unhealthy obsession with MSN Messenger, these are the sounds of early adolescence. And for our parents, these are likely the infuriating noises they’d hear hundreds, if not thousands, of times from when the kids got home from school until they went to bed.


Watching A Film

The whirr of vintage film projectors is now usually only heard in movies. But to hear that sound in real life, with the flickering images springing into life; this is a sound that for so many promised an escape, an entirely new experience, and the guarantee of a perfect hour or two.

Playing On The Sega Megadrive/Genesis

Millions of game marathons were destined to begin with this quick, yet serious sound. As soon as it was heard, it was game-on. The competition had begun.

Receiving An Email

Back when receiving an email was the equivalent of receiving a hand-written letter, the famous “You’ve Got Mail” sound was an exciting occurrence. Thank God we don’t still have this today. Hearing this two hundred times per day may well drive one to the edge of insanity.

Playing Marioland on The Gameboy

As mentioned earlier, this soundtrack is likely one of, if not the, most iconic ever created, and will serve to define childhood for so many people. All hail the original Gameboy!


Watching A Slideshow

From the classrooms of schools around the world, to presentations at the Royal Geographic Society, these are the sounds that would have accompanied the photo exhibitions we were obliged to sit through. It’s a cozy sound, no doubt. But it also makes one reminisce of boredom and tedium. Now, we have far more complex ways to present our photo slideshows How to Create Movie and Photo Slideshows With Music Get creative. You spend all that time taking little videos and photos of everything you do, just to leave them electronically rotting on your hard drive. What a waste! Read More .

Receiving an ICQ Message

Being one of the first Instant Messaging services, ICQ was later bought out be AOL, enabling it to reach a mass audience within the company’s community. The memorable “uh-oh” notification sound may have been a well-placed prediction as to how we would react to notifications in 2015.

Printing With a Dot-Matrix

I was delighted to see hear a dot-matrix printer still being used in a visa office last year in India. The sound echoed through the room, punctuating the stuffy silence with its higgledy-piggledy grinds and scrapes.

Booting Up Amiga

Released in 1993, the Amiga CD32 was the first CD-ROM based home video console. It’s rumored that 38% of CDs sold during the Chrismas period following its launch were for the Amiga. Unfortunately, this sound was destined to die out with the overshadowing popularity of the CD-ROM.


Taking A Polaroid

Polaroid cameras really were beasts. Just like the selling point of VW Golfs is now the durable sound the door makes when it’s shut, the same can be said of the sounds of the Polaroid.  These cameras were built to last, and the memories of the sounds it made certainly have. This can be said for other instant cameras too, with some still being used to make a difference in poor communities How Almost Obsolete Cameras Are Bringing Light To Disaster Zones A house is replaceable. An infection is curable. Hunger is satiable. A lost history is none of these things. Read More .

Dialing a Rotary Phone

Before buttons took over the world, we used to do this to make a phone call. It was all good fun in practice, but it you were in a rush, things could get a little frustrating.

Starting Up & Crashing Your Mac

The startup sound of the Mac; exciting. We couldn’t wait to get started. The crash sound; terrifying.

Rewinding a VCR Cassette

When you realized you’d missed a few minutes of your favourite movie, and had to rewind the cassette a few minutes, a game ensued. Trying to press STOP at he exact time that you wanted was a skill to be perfected, though the risk of having the VCR player chew up your tape was never far from your mind.

Logging In To Windows 95

Before Apple started taking on the world, Windows were an unconquerable force, and during the mid-to-late-90s, this was their anthem. In fact, some say that Windows 95 still rocks.

Losing Signal On The TV

If you ever had to turn up the volume on an old TV to hear the sound, only to lose the signal sporadically, you know the near-heart-attack that this piercing sound can cause. No wonder it’s so often used in horror movies.

Receiving a Call On Your Nokia

The fame (and infamy) of the original Nokia ringtone is difficult to overestimate. It was, for all intent and purposes, Nokia’s tag line, and the robustness of the robotic sound was testiment the brick-like build and lifespan of these amazing pieces of tech.

Tapping On The Typewriter

Just a few decades ago, the heavy clanking of a typewriter was the true sound of beurocracy. The sound of 20 or more of these devices used in unison was deafening. Now, they’re a hipster’s dream. To write prose on a vintage typewriter, using liquid ink as your delete button. Pure heaven.

Loading a ZX Spectrum

In the 80s, this 8-bit home computer was open to true geeks only. With upto 128kb of RAM, and games on Floppy Disks, this was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with.

Turning On The XT Hard Drive

It’s easy to overlook how far hard-drives Buying a New Hard Drive: 7 Things You Must Know Buying a hard drive is easy if you know some basic tips. Here's a guide to understanding the most important hard drive features. Read More have come in the past 10-15 years. From their noisy, overheating, heavy beginnings, they’ve grown into something far more mellow, understated, and fast.

An Evening on Space Invaders

Ah, the robotic sounds of Space Invaders on an Atari (circa 1980). These truly are the archetypal video sounds. This version of the game rocketed the company’s sales, and became the first “killer app” on home consoles.

Which Other Sounds Take You Back?

Now this trip down memory lane is over, what do you think of the way these sounds have evolved? Do you prefer the old beeps and buzzes, or the new calming, more “realistic” synths and chords? Do they fill you with fond memories, or did you always rush to turn the sounds down, or off?  Lastly, Which other sounds did we miss off this list?

Image Credits:Laying on sofa by Milles Vector Studio via Shutterstock

Related topics: History, Nintendo, Windows.

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  1. Anonymous
    October 27, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    Someone should put these on a sound board program. I remember there used to be these kids' books that had a sound board with little picture buttons that you would press at certain points in the story, indicated by the corresponding picture in the text. I still have one that was 101 Dalmations, with picture buttons that played sounds like the dogs barking, a chiptune version of the "Cruella De Vil" song, the nanny sweeping up after the puppies, and Cruella's bumbling henchmen getting bonked on the head.

    It was kind of like the book version of a See & Say -- which, actually, would be another nice idea for these sound effects. Just like "the cow says MOOO" and "the cat says MIAOW" you could have "the modem says BREEEE-EEE-E-E-AWWWUGGHH...."

    Good times, good times.

    • Rob Nightingale
      November 1, 2015 at 8:07 am

      That would be pretty cool :)

  2. Anonymous
    October 12, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    The busy signal is still with us, even on my VOIP (BasicTalk).
    The Spectrum and CD32 never made it on this side of the pond, but I still have (packed away) my Amiga 500; the 1084S monitor has given up the ghost.
    I did own (briefly) the amazingly horrible Timex-Sinclair 1000, and a C64 with a tape drive (quickly upgraded to a 1541 floppy drive!), so loading games from tape fortunately never lasted that long.

    • Rob Nightingale
      October 17, 2015 at 5:38 am

      Oh wow. There must be some pretty retro sounds still playing out of those old beasts!

      • Anonymous
        October 17, 2015 at 5:39 pm

        The A500 has a built-in floppy drive (and I attached an external 2nd floppy to it, for copying disks - it died); but a "click-stop" addon and a SCSI HD meant no more floppy "grinding" unless I wanted to play a floppy-only game. It's been years since I played Cybernetix or Mortal Kombat I...

      • Anonymous
        October 27, 2015 at 6:34 pm

        Do you know how to get sound effects saved out of a vintage Mac system and into a mainstream format like .mid, .wav, or .ogg? I have the Basilisk II emulator running on an XP computer with a System 7.5 image, and want to know if it's possible to save the default sound alerts from System 7, like the Quack and Sosumi chime, the Mac startup sound, and program sounds like the explosion from Kid Pix and the African-sounding jingle from the Global Village modem demo tour.

        I'd love to upload them onto a website somewhere just so people could experience them.

        • Rob Nightingale
          November 1, 2015 at 8:07 am

          I have no idea, sorry. Let me know if you figure it out, though!

  3. Anonymous
    October 10, 2015 at 1:38 am

    Im only 26 now, but I still remember many of them

    I have an old vintage pc running that still uses floppies today. (Not ion Windows 95 but 98)
    and my PS1 sits right besides my TV (still workin).
    ta busy telephone line is something i used to hear not that long ago.
    tetris and mario on the original gameboy (huge brick) I really liked to play.
    msn is dead now (fused into skype) but was somewhat alive only a few years ago.
    and who doesnt recieve emails? ok, not via AOL but still in existence (you can even geht the old AOL notification sound).
    I used to chat via ICQ until around 2011.
    my doctor still uses a dot-matrix printer for his prescriptions.
    And I still have some of our old VCR tapes around.
    Since my TV signal is still analog I still see that noisy screen on my TV sometimes.
    Any I switched from my old Nokia only 3 years ago. (And it was still working!)
    And Space Invaders is one of the classics everyone knows about and most people have played (either because it was their youth or out of curosity)

    Half of the list isn't "retro" or "vintage" but just didn't fall into todays view of "high-tech"
    That would be like saying that using a 32-bit OS or ordering food from adelivery service via phone is retro.
    But they all bring back nice memories of simpler times.

    • Rob Nightingale
      October 17, 2015 at 5:39 am

      Simpler times indeed! I'm actually tempted to buy a PS1 myself :)

      • Anonymous
        October 17, 2015 at 5:34 pm

        A friend of mine has a slim PS1 with the attached LCD screen for sale...thinking of getting it from him.

        • Rob Nightingale
          October 18, 2015 at 5:02 am

          I would if I were you!

  4. Anonymous
    October 8, 2015 at 2:51 pm

    The bad part is not remembering some, but all of them. Tetris and marioland are still unforgettable for me. The final song in rmarioland is one of the fondest memory I have in all videogames - great song and great use of Gameboy's audio capacity. Bought an android emulator so I could hear it again. My best savegame ever.

    • Rob Nightingale
      October 17, 2015 at 5:39 am

      I'm pleased this brought back some good memories for you, Alfredo :)