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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

20 Sounds You’ve Probably Never Heard If You Were Born After 2000

It's very possible that you've never heard the beeps, boops, tones, and tunes your parents' generation used to hear every single day.

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old retro cassette recorder stands on a tableXanya69/Shutterstock

Elwood Edwards’ voice

Back in 1998, when AOL users opened their email account they would hear a friendly notification, “You’ve got mail,” and a pleasant “Goodbye” when they logged off. What many users assumed was a computer-generated greeting was actually the human voice of Elwood Edwards. According to a report on CNBC, Edwards recorded them on a cassette deck in his living room. Oh, a cassette deck is a tape machine you might not have heard of either. It was used to play and record audio compact cassettes, or tapes. Reporters often carried pocket-size versions to record interviews. These are the once-important things people don’t know how to do anymore.

2 / 20
coins parkingMataray8821/Shutterstock

“All I have are pennies!”

Rats! You just nailed a great parking space but you have only pennies in your purse and the parking meter needs nickels, dimes, or quarters. Thankfully, there’s some silver that slipped under the seat cushions. Parking meters of the past used to only accept change. Each time you inserted a coin, you cranked the knob to deposit it, and the time on the meter displayed how many minutes you just bought. Pennies won’t buy much these days.

3 / 20
a close up picture of an address bookGlen Jones/Shutterstock

Your friends’ phone numbers

Do you actually know your mom’s phone number or do you just click “mom” on your contact list? That’s what we thought. Before smartphones with contact lists, people would have to store phone numbers in paper address books—or memorize them. At some point there were cordless phones with “speed dial,” where you could pre-program a handful of VIP numbers and access them with a single press of a button. Can you guess what these antique objects were used for?

4 / 20
Two lifts in a hotel hallID1974/Shutterstock


Stepping into an elevator felt like a peaceful respite, party because the speakers piped in Muzak, a brand of background music created for retail settings and elevators, usually mellow or jazzy versions of familiar pop tunes but without words. Most elevators today are silent, or you might hear a computer-generated voice announcing which floor is next.

5 / 20
pagerBall Songwut/Shutterstock

Beeper beeps

In 1964, Motorola introduced the Pageboy pager, and professionals—especially doctors—were paged for emergencies as long as they were close enough to pick up the signal. At first, the pager produced a single tone meant to hustle the doctor back to the ER or have her call the hospital operator. In the ’70s, pagers added a voice feature—a long beep or other tone was followed by a specific audio alert, like “Code Blue in ICU.”

6 / 20
Close-up Of A Doctor Checking Blood Pressure O PatientAndrey_Popov/Shutterstock

Pump and whoosh of manual blood pressure testing

We all can relate to the feeling of a boa constrictor wrapped around our arm when we’re getting our blood pressure taken, but these days the constricting part is usually done by a machine. Before blood pressure testing went high-tech, a nurse squeezed a rubber bulb to tighten the cuff around your arm. Each “poof” meant more squeezing. After what seemed like an eternity, the measuring was complete and the sound of the air being released from the cuff meant you could feel your arm again.

7 / 20
office telephone detailStockPhotosArt/Shutterstock

Beep-beep-beep of a busy signal

With the advent of voicemail and call-waiting, busy signals are a thing of the past. How frustrating it used to be to dial up a friend with the day’s juiciest gossip only to hear the dreaded beep-beep-beep tone. The busy signal meant the person was still talking, or worse, accidentally left the phone off the hook, rendering a busy signal until the phone was placed back in the unit.

8 / 20
Lawn and GardenDewayne Flowers/Shutterstock

Snapping, crackling, and sizzling pest control

Bug zappers were wildly popular back in the ’80s and ’90s. The purple or blue ultraviolet light was pretty at night, and the continuous snap, crackle, and sizzle noises meant a lot of bugs were getting killed—except the biting kind. Turns out the ultraviolet light attracted bugs, but once biters (mosquitoes) sniffed the intoxicating carbon dioxide exhaled from you, they turned from the light and went for your blood instead.

9 / 20
Several old computers in the computer roomRolaks/Shutterstock

Dial-up static

Today, connecting to the Internet is speedy and silent. But not so long ago, it was so slow that you could heat a Hot Pocket in the microwave and be back in your seat before it came on. The dial-up connection consisted of a satisfying symphony of a short dial tone, immediately followed by a phantom dialer, beeps, tones, static, and other alien sounds, until—poof! You’re connected. These are the things you’re never too old for!

10 / 20
Personal CD player. Old portable cd player with open blue cover; cd inside,Thanasit Tippawan/Shutterstock

CD skips

Before Pandora and Spotify, we often listened to music on a portable CD player with earphones. We’d be minding our business walking to the bus stop, and just as Britney was singing “Oops, I did it again” for the 13th time, the CD would skip. An annoying clicking and techy grind really threw a wrench into our pop beats.

11 / 20
Pencil Sharpener Mounted on Walltylercb54/Shutterstock

Manual sharpening sounds

If the only time you use a pencil is when you’re keeping score during a cutthroat game of mini-golf, then you might not have noticed that the old mountable pencil sharpeners have virtually disappeared. The turns of the crank that sharpened pencils to fine-pointed perfection have stepped aside for the sleek desktop electric versions. But the new versions don’t have the multiple-sized holes like the crank style. How are you supposed to sharpen your jumbo rainbow pencil with the troll eraser on top? These are the childhood collections that could make you rich.

12 / 20
Ice cube building in ice cube tray for background or texturefullempty/Shutterstock

Crack of an ice tray

Plastic ice cube trays should come with a warning of ice shrapnel. The twisting, crackling, and popping all made for a dramatic release of ice cubes, most of which fell on the floor or into your face instead of in your glass. And let’s not forget what happened if you tried to pry an ice cube out and got the cube stuck to your finger, kind of like the kid who put his tongue on the frozen flagpole in the movie A Christmas Story. Ouch. These vintage kitchen items are worth more than you’d think.

13 / 20

Double ding at the gas station

Today, you’re more likely to hear a TV monitor at the gas pump, but not that long ago you would hear a chime as you drove over the hose parallel to the gas pump. Yep, even as late as the mid-’80s, you could sit in your car and wait for the tank to be filled while the attendant filled it up and washed your windows.

14 / 20
retro tv with wooden case in room with vintage wallpaper on wood tablePakpoom Phummee/Shutterstock

Click of the channel changer

Back in the day, a standard TV only had channels 2 to 13 and no remote control. Not only did you have to get off the couch to turn the knob that changed the channel (producing a pronounced click), but you might also have had to adjust the TV antenna to get a better picture! The television manufacturer Zenith rolled out the first remote control in 1950, but it would take 30 more years for it to hit the mainstream (and change the channel silently). Here are some other tasks that were way harder back in the day.

15 / 20
Closeup of a vintage library book with date due stamps from November 1949 through April 1959.Julie Blattberg/Shutterstock

“Your book is due back in two weeks”

These days you don’t need to interact with a human being to borrow books from the library. You can reserve books online, pick them up in a special section, and take them to an automated check-out station. But only a few decades ago, a librarian’s desk held two important tools to remind you when your book was due back: A rubberized date stamper with adjustable numbers and an ink pad to stamp a return date on the card that went into the envelope inside the front cover of the book.

16 / 20
A hand pushing start button old fax retro stylesuksawad/Shutterstock

Fax beeps and shrieks

You finally summon the nerve to call a guy you met at the bookstore but get a weird static signal with electronic shrieking sounds. Did that dude give you a fake phone number? Nah, you just dialed a fax machine number instead. Email attachments have made fax machine transfers of documents virtually nonexistent today, but back then it wasn’t unheard of to dial a number and get a fax machine instead of a human on the other end.  Check out these surprising pictures of what everyday objects looked like 100 years ago.

17 / 20
kodak disposableLMWH/Shutterstock

Scroll of the disposable camera

Disposable cameras are still for sale but there are limited places to get the rolls of film developed. Before smartphones, disposable cameras were an inexpensive way to take pictures. A quick click and the picture was taken, but it was hard to take action shots because you had to quickly rotate the dial to advance the film before you could focus and take the picture. If you dropped the camera into a bag at the drugstore, you’d be lucky to see your prints a week later.

18 / 20
Friends Reading Map Traveling Destination Camping

Crinkle of a map

No road trip ever began without a foldable paper map tucked neatly in the glove compartment. The unfolding and aggressive adjusting to get it to lay somewhat flat on your lap was a chore, but even worse was trying to fold it back to its original form. The folding, creasing, and subsequent swearing is something you rarely hear today with the advent of GPS programs.

19 / 20
Alarm ClockPeter Gudella/Shutterstock

Shrieking alarm clock

No one ever woke up without their heart beating out of their chest when the piercing sound of the alarm went off on their bedside table. If you’re feeling nostalgic, you can download the sound of a vintage alarm clock on your smartphone. Check out these nostalgic photos of kids playing before smartphones and technology.

20 / 20
 hook loop velcro magic tape for fastener stickingmindroom14/Shutterstock

Ripping of Velcro

You were super cool if you had a Trapper Keeper to keep your history notes and algebra worksheets tidy and secure. Whether it had a Trans Am or a puppy with rainbows on the cover, it was fun to pull the Velcro tab to open your homework and be the first to turn in your crisp handwritten report on Amelia Earhart. Next, check out more things a 2000s kid will never understand (prepare to feel old if you were born before then).

Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, HealthiNation, The Family Handyman, Taste of Home, and, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center. Follow her on Instagram @lisamariewrites4food and Twitter @cornish_conklin.