10 sounds that make us miss the olden days of tech

retro tech sounds
These days, technology is eerily quiet. You have complete control over which sounds you hear and when you hear them. If you want to silence your smartphone, all it takes is the flip of a virtual switch or the press of a touchscreen button.

Remember when technology was loud and obnoxious?

We at Digital Trends sure do (at least some of us do) and while many of the sounds from days past annoyed us to no end back in the day, it’s so fun to reminisce now that we’re rid of them forever. Thanks to YouTube and the amazing archive that is the Internet, we’ve put together this charming list of antiquated tech sounds.

WARNING: While reading this post you may suffer from traumatic flashbacks and fits of nostalgia.

1. Typewriter

The oldest dinosaur whose sounds we’ve unearthed is one that has been popular since the 1860s and alive in some incarnation since the 1570s. The typewriter enjoyed more than 100 years of uninterrupted domination in the lives of journalists and writers everywhere before finally being displaced by computers in the 1980s and 90s. Of course, if you’ve ever ventured into your parents’ basement or gone to a flea market in Brooklyn, you’ve seen a typewriter in person and maybe even used one. If you get real sad, there’s always Tom Hanks’ viral Hanx Writer typewriter app on iOS for those of you who long for the era of clacking keys, ink ribbons, and whiteout.

Related: Tom Hanks made a Typewriter app for iPad

2. Rotary phone

If you were around in 1960s through the 80s, you probably grew up dialing your best friend’s digits into this slow-moving wheel. The rotary phone first arrived in the 1890’s and became popular in 1900s. For the next 60 odd years, people went through the painstaking process of entering seven to nine numbers into the rotary dial. There was a lot of waiting involved, so it was a good thing calling 911 only required three swipes (though it seems unfortunate that folks had to wait for the 9 to go round).

3. Busy signal

Remember when people actually had land lines and sometimes the signal was busy? Then you had to hear this horrible sound for what seemed like forever. And then you’d have to try calling again, and again, and again until it stopped.

4. Pager beep

Before there were text messages, there was the pager. First used to call doctors to New York City hospitals in the 1950’s the pager quickly became the ultimate device for businessmen on the go and the tech savvy. Then, in the 1990s, hip-hop culture picked up the pager and glamorized it. Ice Cube, Destiny’s Child, and other major acts referenced pagers in their songs. Pagers were so cool and so annoying. Oddly enough, many doctors still use them today. Remember this terrible sound?

5. VCR rewind

We know it’s hard to believe, but yes, there were movies before Netflix. Once upon a time you had to go to actual movie theaters to watch anything (gasp), but then the world got really advanced and created the VCR and VHS tape (by the way, VHS stands for Video Home System. Amazing right?!?). The only bad part about the VHS was you had to rewind it when you were done or face the wrath of your older sibling when they popped it in the VCR a week later and had to wait a minute or two for the darn thing to rewind … and they would wear out pretty fast. I think we can agree that VCRs can stay in the past.

6. Floppy disk drive

Saving your class project on a floppy disk when everyone else had CDs was not fun — ask any 90s/00s kid who had cheapskate parents. But before floppy discs became lame, they were the best and only way to save and transfer files from PC to PC. Up until Apple eschewed the floppy disc drive for the CD-ROM drive, Floppy discs were the bees knees — even though the drives sounded ridiculous while reading the small discs (and unless you had an old 5-inch drive, they also were not floppy at all even though the word floppy was in the name).

7. CD skipping

If you were around in the 80s, you probably heard about CDs from your rich friends. 90s kids may have owned a cassette or two before their rooms became full of CDs. Cassette tapes existed for a very long time before CDs, but once they arrived in the early ’80s, CDs took over quickly. Then Apple released the iPod, ending the reign of the CD with the MP3, which is now being replaced by the likes of Spotify and Pandora, but we digress. The thing about CDs is that they’re delicate. Scratch ’em once and you’re stuck cursing the world every time the CD skips right in the middle of your favorite song. In honor of this horrible experience, we give you Tony Soprano.

8. Dot Matrix Printer

It’s no secret that printers are loud, but no printer shuffles along more loudly that the Dot Matrix printer from the 1970s. Boy was this thing LOUD.

9. Dial up

Nowadays the Internet is super fast. Even “low-speed” Internet is fast. Don’t believe us? We suggest you go talk to someone who lived through the 90s. You need only say three words to this person: Dial-up Internet. That loud groan you’ll hear is the collective frustration of every person who ever had to suffer the torture of dial up. Not only did you take over the phone line, which gave your grandmother anxiety attacks because she kept getting the busy signal (see above) while she dialed you on her rotary phone, but you also had to wait half an hour for anything to appear on the screen.

But that wasn’t the worst part. Oh no. The worst part was the sound. That horrible dial-up tone.

10. AOL You’ve Got Mail!

No doubt you’re still traumatized by the dial up tone and just experienced a horrible flashback, so we’ll end things with a much nicer sound that many of us actually miss. So here it is. You’ve got mail!


Thanks, AOL. You redeemed yourself.

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