avatarCurt Melzer


Six Nearly Extinct Sounds from the ‘70s

As time marches on, here is a list of some obsolete sounds that are soon to be forgotten.

Photo by Mike Gattorna on Unsplash

As is inevitable, the world seems to be moving on and some of us may feel like we are being left behind.

In many areas, technology has replaced bygone methods and it can feel overwhelming.

Lamenting their absence, often we fondly remember past times, objects, smells and even sounds.

Today’s world sounds much different than it did when I was growing up.

As a Gen Xer growing up in the Midwest, I can still hear the forgotten sounds of the seventies and eighties. I fear that many of the sounds will soon be obsolete if not completely extinct.

Here is a list of nostalgic sounds that may be disappearing forever.

1. Rotary phone sounds

Touch screen phones and face-timing portals offer a different telephone experience than we had in the seventies. Kids today may never actually hear the sounds of a phone being dialed, the busy signal letting you know someone was using the line you were trying to call, or the loud blaring sound of a phone left off the hook.

Photo by Stephen Monterroso on Unsplash

2. Television sounds

Omnipresent remote controls and Smart TVs have not only changed our viewing experiences, but have also altered the sounds we hear.

The sound of twirling the dial on the television set way too fast was the quickest way to bring out the ire of fathers across the nation.

Another sound that kids today might never know is the sound of static when the television was tuned to a channel with no reception.

And, of course, there was the sound of the U.S. national anthem when the television station signed off for the night followed by a high-pitched “errrrrrrrr” that played constantly, accompanied by a visual of rainbow-colored vertical bars.

Photo by Ryan Arnst on Unsplash

3. Record player sounds

With the resurgence of vinyl records, perhaps these sounds will not be lost to the ages like so many listed here but they were still a large part of listening to music in the seventies.

Who could forget the sound of a record player still spinning, when the needle had reached the end of the album. Or more cringe-inducing, the sound of a needle being dragged across the grooves of a moving record. The screech would garner similar reactions to nails on a chalkboard, another sound that is going away as chalkboards have been replaced by whiteboards and touch screen displays.

Photo by Xingye Jiang on Unsplash

4. Be kind, rewind.

An exercise in patience, we sat and listened to the whirring of a music cassette or VHS as it rewound itself to the beginning. The tell-tale sounds of it speeding up and the pitch getting higher alerted us that we were almost done with the chore and could finally listen to the song we wanted or watch the movie from the beginning.

Another sound that I have not heard for years was the automatic rewinding of the film in a camera once you had taken the last picture. From there, you were just a few short weeks away of seeing the pictures that you had taken after you dropped the film off at the photo-lab in the parking lot of the local grocery store.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

5. Film projectors

When a film had ran its course and one reel emptied, the other spinning reel would make a flapping sound as it whipped the end of the film round and round. In class at school, there was something satisfying about the clicking noise made as a teacher operated a slide projector. Often, there was an audio portion that came from a record with soft beeps letting the teacher know when she should advance the slide.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

6. Early computer sounds

As we moved away from the clicking sound of typewriters to the quiet keys of a keyboard, computers became a larger part of our lives.

When the world first started connecting to the internet, it was on dial-up modems that would screech at you for about 10 seconds until it finally settled down letting know that you were connected. Years later when we all started using dial-up internet at home via A.O.L. (America Online), one of the best sounds was the cheery announcement of “You Got Mail.”

Photo by Documerica on Unsplash

Thanks to the sound files on the internet and preserved in time-period movies, many of these sounds may never actually become extinct but certainly are not as omnipresent as they once were.

Closing my eyes and thinking back to the seventies, I can still hear the sound of the screen door slamming as my brother got home or the toilet running because it always leaked.

When you pulled into a gas station, you heard a double beep as you ran over a pneumatic hose trigger that let the attendant know you were there and waiting for him to fill your gas tank, wash your windows and check your oil.

In the summer with windows opened to allow the cool night air into the unairconditioned house, I can still hear the sound of barking dogs down the block, trains on distant tracks and cicadas looking for mates.

I know these sounds are still there, but it seems I hardly hear them anymore. I am sure it is because I no longer listen for them in my closed-up airconditioned house.

Perhaps the world doesn’t have to move on as quickly as it seems to be happening. Perhaps all it takes is some effort on our own part to hear and feel the things we used to in bygone times.

For other nostalgic stories by Curt:

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Gen X
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