Flash Back to Noisy Tech

Time for a blast from the past as we look back at some most memorable technology from the early days of modern tech!

Technology, today, is pretty darn quiet. It really only makes noise when we want it to, such as when we ask Siri or Alexa for information, or set up alerts and ringtones on our devices. But that wasn’t always the case.
Let’s turn back the clock for a look at a more raucous, cacophonous, thunderous time in tech.

Mac Sounds

Early Apple computers had lots of fun sounds, from Happy Mac to the scary Chimes of Death (seriously, that’s what they’re called). These sounds were much more interesting than the beeps from older PC computers. Unfortunately, Apple computer sounds today are not nearly as much fun.

Space Invaders

Created in 1978, Space Invaders was the first fixed shooter game with a cannon at the bottom of the screen. The goal was to shoot wave after wave of aliens as they descended faster and faster down the screen. The familiar four-note sound loop only added to your anxiety as you tried to not be destroyed by aliens.

Floppy Disk

Big old chunky computers that sat under desks used to have a thin slot in the side to put in a disk that could copy files from the computer. When copying data to a floppy disk, it sounded like a quiet dot matrix printer, a rhythmic chunk chunk chunk sound with a slightly louder, longer buzzy sound that told you the data was being copied…or read…or something else. It was never entirely clear.

Manual Camera

Have you ever seen or used a manual camera? Our phones have digital cameras and you might know someone who uses a bigger and more professional digital that makes no noise as it takes photos. Back in the day, however, cameras worked with levers and gears that wound film across the back of the camera to expose it to the light coming through the front lens. Pressing the lever made a distinct sound as you moved the film from an exposed image to a new part of the film.

Dot Matrix Printer

Modern printers don’t make a lot of noise like their predecessors, dot matrix printers. They literally printed dots across print paper, one line and then the next line then the next line then the next line…and well you get the idea. The thing is, they made a really obnoxious sound as they printed. Brings back fond memories, sorta.

“You’ve Got Mail”

This message was part of the America Online (AOL) service in the 1990s. I still have a friend or two with an AOL email address. This voice is from an actual human being, Elwood Edwards. His wife volunteered him for the job. Apparently he still likes to stand behind people and say, “You’ve got mail!”


This was and still is one of my favorite games because it requires you to feed then raise a digital pet. My daughter played it all the time. It’s a small hand-sized device with a simple screen and a few buttons. The device beeped alerts to let you know how your animal was doing. The latest versions are much more sophisticated but still communicate with sounds.

Rotary Phone

Phones today are mobile and fit in your hand and pocket. But not long ago phones were either attached to a wall, or they sat on a table. Instead of a pad with numbers like a mobile phone, these phones had a round circle with 10 holes in it. You stuck your finger in a hole for each number then rotated the round circle up to the finger stop before pulling your finger out. Crazy right? Of course, numbers that included 8, 9, and 0 took the longest to dial because the round circle had to rotate all the way back into position before you could dial the next number.

Learn More

What noises mean for your computer


Why is My Computer Making a Whirring Noise


Noise Inside Computers


Computer Noises You Shouldn’t Ignore


Old Computer and Printer Startup Noises


Computer Sounds from the 90s


Mac Startup and Crash Sounds


Man Behind Apple’s Most Famous Sounds



  • Tim Slavin

    Tim is an award-winning writer and technologist who enjoys teaching tech to non-technical people. He has many years experience with web sites and applications in business, technical, and creative roles. He and his wife have two kids, now teenagers, who are mad about video games.

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