Sounds that once filled our world have vanished just about completely. Case in point:
(SOUNDBITE OF TYPEWRITER KEYS)
Kara Kovalchik joins us from a studio in Royal Oak, Michigan. She's research editor for mentalfloss.com. Nice to have you with us today.
KARA KOVALCHIK: Thank you so much. Nice to be here.
CONAN: And have the kids in your family ever heard that manual typewriter?
KOVALCHIK: Well, I don't have kids, so...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
KOVALCHIK: But I've talked to people. I used to work in an office where we had to bring out an old manual to do a five-part carbon form. And the high school intern that typed it just literally recoiled when she hit a key, said it snapped at me.
CONAN: Those I'm old enough to remember newsrooms filled with those sounds as people struggled to get on air on deadline.
KOVALCHIK: Right. That used to be the classic sound of a busy office, newsroom. There was a clatter of typewriters and ripping the page from the plate, you know, rip here, you know, stop the presses.
CONAN: What gave you the idea to do a list of vanished sound?
KOVALCHIK: Well, my husband Sandy Wood, who's also a research editor at Mental Floss, and I were watching some reality show. I forget which one. And they had a sound effect. It sounds like a record needle screeching across an album, and it was to indicate, oh, my God, you know, something's weird. Stop everything, stop the action. And he turned to me, you know, I bet you a lot of kids wouldn't even know where that sound originated from. And that just got us talking about other sounds that people probably wouldn't hear anymore.
CONAN: Here's an email we have from Lucia(ph) or Luccia(ph) in Cameron Park, California: The sound from my life that has already vanished: a teletype machine in the newsroom. My husband was in radio. There was always a closet-sized room with a door that had a window where they kept the teletype machine. It was fascinating watching the yellow paper cranking out the news of the day - amazing – yes, at an amazing and astonishing 60 characters a minute.
KOVALCHIK: You know, what's interesting about that, my very first job back in 1976, I was ahem years old, still a teenager, OK? But it was as a Telex operator for a large Fortune 500 company and it was a teletype machine. And you - yes, it was 64 words per minute was how much - how fast the thing would go at top speed. You punched out your messages on paper tape. You didn't have a shift key for caps. You had to hit numbers or figures if you - I mean, figures or letters. I mean, I know that - and, yes, they did put us in small, airless, closet-sized rooms because the things were so noisy.
BILL: Hello. I miss the sound of a golf ball hitting persimmon wood instead of the metal that clubs are made out of today.
CONAN: Wow. The...
KOVALCHIK: That's very specific.
CONAN: The sound is quite distinctly different, though.
BILL: There's nothing - it's a little click that you get when you hit the ball perfect, whereas when you hit with metal, it's just a clank. Even if you hit it good, it's a clank. It ain't the same. I really miss that.
CONAN: It's the same as when you go to a high school baseball game, and it's the ding of horsehide on aluminum.
BILL: Yes, sir. Very good, yes, comparison. Absolutely right. Same...
KOVALCHIK: Right. Instead of hickory.
CONAN: Yeah. Bill, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.
BILL: Interesting show. Thank you.
CONAN: Thank you. Let's go next to - this is Patty(ph), Patty with us from Anderson in Ohio.
PATTY: Hi. I was just going to say my son is going to miss the sound of a rotary dial phone.
CONAN: Oh, we happen to have that sound right with us.
(SOUNDBITE OF ROTARY PHONE DIAL SPINNING)
CONAN: Apparently somebody calling, well, not 911 because you can tell how many clicks there were. It was an audio cue.
PATTY: Absolutely. And then there was always the associated sound of your mother yelling at you not to stretch the cord so far.
KOVALCHIK: Right. Oh, yes. OK. You must have known my mom.
PATTY: Yeah, yeah. I think they went to the same - they pulled them aside in gym school - in gym class at school and...
KOVALCHIK: Yeah, gave them all the same cliches. But, yeah. Interestingly enough...
PATTY: I wanted to add one more that is actually a noise - a sound that's been long distance but - distant and gone but - from my childhood. My dad was a jockey. And when I was little, I went to the race, went to the horse races, there was actually a man with a bugle who began the races. And that song has long since vanished.
KOVALCHIK: Oh, played the "Call to the Post."