By S.J. Purcell. June 21, 2012


Today’s technological innovation is often tomorrow’s scrap, left to gather dust in the recesses of our homes, resurfacing periodically to prompt bouts of quaint reflection –or worse– is simply discarded. Once a piece of technology has been superseded by something newer, better, faster, it is robbed of its purpose. This process is as reliable as the passing of time itself. It is formulaic. It is inevitable.

We are never satisfied, always striving to create, improve, refine, and innovate. That restlessness is an intrinsic part of human nature, and it has essentially shaped the world we now live in, for better or worse. As a species, we are particularly adept at looking to the future; we imagine a better world, and focus on the ideas and innovations that will help take us there. We have little time for those ideas and innovations that helped us arrive where we are now, today. It’s a cliché, but clichés are often clichés because they are true: how can you know (and appreciate) where you’re going, if you don’t know where you’ve been?

There are children alive today that have never known a world without the Internet, mobile phones, or cheap air travel. How can they appreciate the world they live in without knowing –or, at least, being reminded– that this was not always the way things were?

Perhaps this is not a concern that troubles us all, but it certainly does concern Brendan Chilcutt. Brendan has created a website, the ‘Museum of Endangered Sounds’, where he has begun cataloguing the distinctive sound of redundant technologies. You can click the image of each item and hear its unique, evocative sound: the high-pitched screech of the ZX Spectrum, the satisfying plastic clunk of a VHS tape being loaded, the cloying electronic beeps and chirps of a Tamagotchi, and the elastic symphonies of Tetris. The aim of the site is to preserve the sounds of these at one time ubiquitous technologies, allowing visitors to remember a time when the cutting edge of technology was a Nokia 3330.

Perhaps it’s simply that I’m getting older; I’m becoming acutely aware that I will also (eventually) be left to gather dust in the recesses of the modern world. But looking back –quaint though it may be– does not have to mean that you are unwilling to move forward, just that want to know how you got there.  

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