Library of Obsolete Sounds preserves recordings of old tech

If you’ve ever wanted to remind yourself (or learn, for those a bit younger) what a Sony Walkman, a Polaroid camera, or a 56K modem sounded like, Cities and Memory has launched a website containing recordings from those and other old devices. The company encourages people to submit recordings with a lengthy field recording guide.

Sound project Cities and Memory established a website on Monday where visitors can listen to recordings of things not commonly heard these days. These include old technology like tape recorders, phones, computers, video games, and more.

The project aims to pique users’ nostalgia and preserve sounds that are in danger of disappearing because they come from devices no longer in use. The site organizes the sounds into categories such as cameras, video games, typewriters, and appliances, among others.

Currently, the largest sections are for cameras, domestic appliances, home entertainment devices, and kitchen equipment. The camera section includes Joycam and i-Zone instant Polaroid cameras. It also features two 35mm cameras, a Bolex film camera, and others.

Old video recorders from companies like Sony and Phillips can be found in the Home Entertainment section. You’ll also find a film projector, a slide projector, and a music box. A particular surprise for some visitors might be the GAF View-Master. You can hear devices like old fans, sewing machines, hair dryers, shavers, and even a stone-age drill in the appliance section.

Recordings from simpler objects like a match, a lunch box, weighing scales, and coffee grinders are also available. The library doesn’t just include recordings of technology, however. Traditional music from countries such as Cambodia, Morocco, and Japan is also here. Additionally, visitors can hear a few nature sounds, including a melting glacier.

For each sound, visitors can view information on its source and the recording process. Some of the recordings came from another sound preservation group, Conserve the Sound.

For submitting recordings, Cities and Memory requires sound files between one minute and 20 minutes long in formats like WAV. The site includes an extensive guide with equipment and idea suggestions.

Cities and Memory has a podcast about sound recording that updates multiple times a week. The company also encourages users to submit music inspired by their recordings, collecting them into dozens of albums available for free at Bandcamp.