Boomers Could Name That Sound Blindfolded

As part of the Boomer Generation, we have witnessed a lot of changes. Yet have you stopped to consider, within those changes are sounds that may once have been familiar but seldom — if ever — do we hear them today? Here are some of the sounds that were commonplace to us in our boomer days that have all but disappeared today:

Whir-r-r-r, ker-chunk, click: The sound of an 8-track tape switching to the next track

By the late 1970s, 8-track tapes were as rare as buggy whips.

Ka-ticker-flit-click-click, ding, ding: The sound of a coin dropping into a pay phone and registering its acceptance with dings

While pay phones still exist, they are all but extinct in most areas, supplanted by personal cell phones.

Ker-flit-ker-r-r-r-r-r-r-flit, ker-flit, ker-r-r-r-flit, ker-flit-ker-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-flit, ker-flit-ker-r-r-r-r-r-r-flit, ker-r-r-r-r-flit, ker-r-r-r-flit: The sound of a rotary telephone dial

The higher the number dialed, the longer the sound as it traveled back to its starting point. The first keypad phone dialing system was introduced at the World’s Fair in 1962, but it was another twenty years before digital keypads completely replaced the rotary dial.

Tick, tack, kerjlick: The sound of clicking numbers on an adding machine, followed by the noise made by pulling the handle to get a total

Simple computer apps have replaced the need for adding machines today, though you may still find electric models in some business offices.

Pop, tick, his-s-s: The sound of a needle on a vinyl record

All but thought extinct in the late 1990s, the vinyl record is making a bit of a comeback among collectors. Are they nostalgic for that sound?

Chack, chack, chack, ding-g-g, ker-j-j-j-j-lick, z-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-p: The sound of typing on a manual typewriter, reaching the end of the line (ding) and manually flipping the handle on the carriage return, which caused it to go back to the left starting position for the next line

Though electric typewriters appeared in some high-tech offices as early as the 1920s, many boomers learned to type on manual typewriters, and used them throughout their school years. (Mister Boomer used a manual 1929 Underwood to type all his term papers through college.)

Teh-teh-teh-teh-teh-teh-teh-teh, flap, flap, flap, flap: The sound of a movie projector rewinding a reel and coming to the end, where the last few inches of film flapped until the operation was turned off

We regularly heard this sound when educational movies were shown at school, or your uncle with the movie camera insisted on showing his home movies. Today’s DVD recorders don’t require spools of film that need to be rewound, so the chance of hearing this sound again depends entirely on whether older equipment is present.

Gull-ug, gull-ll-ug, gull-ugg: The sound of brewing coffee in an electric percolator

Though the devices are still on the market, most people have opted for the automatic drip machines in their homes and offices.

Vroop-pa, vroop-pa, vroop-pa: The rhythmic sound of a hand saw cutting through wood

Hand saws are still in use, but more often than not, they are used to finish a cut rather than make one.

Fwap, fwap, fwap: The sound of a wooden paddle hitting your rump

In our boomer school days, the “Board of Education” was a form of discipline for teachers to use on misbehaving students. Today that same action would be labelled as abuse.

Ting-g-g-g, ting-g-g-g-g-g, fwiddle, fwiddle, clack, fwiddle, clack: The sound of a coin falling on the ground

Coins use to make a metallic ping when hitting practically any surface, whereas today it’s more of a dull thwack. Today’s coins are minted from a combination of alloys that has fundamentally changed the sound when one follows the laws of gravity.

The Star Spangled Banner, be-e-e-e-p, chu-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh-sh: The sound of a television station ending a broadcast day

In the early days of daily TV broadcasting, technical limitations forced broadcasters into a 12 to 18 hour day. At the end of the broadcast day, most followed the procedure that produced the sounds mentioned here. That is, they played the Star Spangled Banner (usually an instrumental, orchestral version) followed by boomer-recognized beeps (that were in fact a signal to affiliates to turn off their equipment for the night) and then hours of static. In the morning, the same test pattern that was broadcast at the sound of the beep at night was shown, and new beeps signaled that broadcasting was about to begin anew. Today most stations in this country are on a 24/7 broadcast routine, eliminating those sounds we remember when we were up way past our bedtime. (In Mister B’s case, as a light sleeper it often woke him up, at which point he would walk into the living room to inevitably find his father fast asleep with the TV still on. After shutting off the TV and turning off the lamp, Mister B would head back to bed.)

Sound is another way we have measured change and progress throughout the decades. As boomers we have witnessed the biggest changes — and their accompanying sounds — since the time of the Industrial Revolution. What sounds will our children and grandchildren be able to say they once heard, but hear no more?

What sounds do you recall that you seldom — if ever — hear today, boomers?