Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Sounds Our Children Will Never Hear

I'm not sure if I've written about this before or not ... my memory isn't what it used to be, and I can't keep more than 2700 posts in my head. If you've heard me discuss this already, just smile benignly at forgetful ol' Bilbo and come back tomorrow.

Not long ago, my friend and former coworker Brenda dropped this article from Mental Floss onto my Facebook page, reminding me that we'd discussed the topic in the office one day: 11 Sounds That Your Kids Have Probably Never Heard. Considering that I'm a great deal older than Brenda, I suspect that she may not have actually heard some of these sounds, either. Here are a few, with my commentary and observations added in as well:

The "thunks" and "ka-chings" of the old-fashioned cash register. Nowadays, when cashiers just wave bar codes across a laser scanner to check out our purchases with a little beep, it's hard to remember that there was a time when individual keys had to be pressed on a huge cash register, and the amount totaled by pulling on a lever like a Las Vegas one-armed bandit. The sounds of the old-fashioned cash register live on today in some of our expressions: we still ring up a sale, even though there's no ring at the end of the process; and we've all heard someone shout ka-ching! to indicate the successful making of a point or consummation of a deal.

The sound of a manual typewriter. It's true that the "clackety-clack" of the keys, the "ding" of the end-of-line warning bell, the "chunk" of the shift key, and the "zip" of the manual carriage return are pretty iconic and are long gone with today's word processing programs. But not mentioned in the article is another set of related sounds that have disappeared as well - the sounds of the electric typewriter. Many years ago, a group of us (Arizona Dave will remember this) would let ourselves into the offices of our college ROTC detachment and sit at various desks where there were IBM Selectric typewriters. We'd then call our friends and, using the typewriters, pretend that we were in the middle of a fierce gun battle ... holding down the space bar gave the convincing "rat-a-tat" of a machine gun, the tab key simulated the "whoosh-thud" of a near miss, and the backspace key created a heavy "thump, thump, thump" similar to mortar fire. It was cheap entertainment for college students who were perpetually broke. Today, those sounds are gone, too, replaced by the nearly-soundless tapping of soft computer keyboards.

The pneumatic hose that rang the bell that told the gas station attendant that a customer had arrived at the pump. Gas station attendants? What are those?, you ask. Those are the guys that used to come out at the sound of that bell, fill up your tank (and give you change for a five), check the oil and the tire pressure, and clean your windshield in the days before "self-service*." They're long gone ... just like the bell that used to tell them you'd arrived.

Back in the early days of television, before multifunction remote controls and your choice of 200 cable stations**, if you wanted to watch a different station, you had to get up, walk to the TV, and physically turn a dial that clunked its way through the available channels (there were usually three - the local ABC, CBS, and NBC network affiliates). The on-air announcers would exhort you, "Don't touch that dial!" to keep you in place through the endless commercials before your show came back on.

"Please" and "thank you." It doesn't seem as if many parents nowadays are teaching those sounds to their children.

And ...

The sound of polite, well-reasoned and factually-supported comments responding to news articles and opinion pieces on the Internet. They've been replaced by drivel spouted by brainless trolls who know only how to shout rather than think.

Which leads me to wonder ... what are the sounds of today that we won't hear in another 20 or 30 years? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* Translation: "We jack up the prices and let you do the work yourself!"

** How did we live before The Golf Channel, the Oprah Winfrey Network, the Karaoke Channel, and Long and Foster's Parade of Homes?


eViL pOp TaRt said...

I hope that "batteries required" will be one of those.

I think at least one of the big networks on TV will bite the dust.

Duckbutt said...

"You're welcome."

Arizona Dave said...

I *was* warned, wasn't I? That was a great one, Bilbo! I literally laughed out loud. ROTC gun battles... *snork* I still hear the pneumatic *ding* when I take stuff to the local Goodwill location. They have a bell to let the folks know there's someone out front.

Mike said...

And if you remember (sure you do) when UHF TV stations first appeared on the scene, we had a converter box on top of the TV. You put the TV on CH13 and then tuned the radio like UHF tuner to the station you were looking for on the UHF dial.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I sadly remember these as well as what Mike is saying. But the way my hearing is going I may not hear much more soon enough.