The Sounds of Gadgets Past

Sometimes a sound will just take you back, letting you experience memories long since past. That fact is the driving force behind Conserve the Sound, a website dedicated to saving all of those interesting (and not so interesting) sounds from the gadgets that were once a big part of our life. Those gadgets have since fallen by the wayside in the ever forward march of technology. But at least the moment in sound has been preserved.

viewmaster Conserve the sound
The Viewmaster Screen at Conserve the Sound (Picture credit: Conserve the Sound)

An Auditory Museum

Conserve The Sound was built to save those odd memories that you have tucked into the deep recesses of your brain. The site was first funded in 2013. Since then it has been maintained by creative house Chunderksen.

The site has grown a lot since its start, and you will find plenty to help bring back the memories of your favorite gadgets. I took a leisure stroll across their exhibits (okay, I visited the site ) and surprisingly found many objects of interest.

Somehow I had forgotten exactly what a rotary dial phone sounded like and found the experience pleasant. I also forgot how slow a rotary dial phone was, but I digress. There were other interesting aural memories to explore.

The manual typewriter, which I’m pretty sure was a Smith Corona model, brought back memories of keys being stuck and whiteout. Did I ever tell you about the time I almost lost an arm from erasable bond typing paper? I’m probably exaggerating a little there, but it was a particularly heinous paper cut.

Easy to Navigate

The site has maintained an easy to navigate structure. You can browse randomly and just keep following tags (which I recommend, they are logically grouped for the most part.) You can also do a search for a particular memory. Either way, you are bound to find something interesting for any number of oddball personal reasons.

You’ll find images accompanying each sound. This helps to identify the object, but everything is well laid out and explained. You’ll even find related thumbnails of gadgets at the bottom of each featured object, just waiting for you to try.

The effect the sound can have on the visitor can vary depending on how exposed they were to the gadget selected. But I would suggest that anyone that had a Viewmaster go right now to the site and relive those wild and crazy days of pulling that lever for the next image. And pull it again. Repeat.


The Viewmaster reel viewer was introduced in 1939, after the release of Kodachrome film made the small reel images possible. Each Viewmaster reel holds 14 images for a total of 7 3D images. There have been over 1.5 billion Viewmaster reels sold.

Fists of Bruce Lee Fury

I have on occasion browsed through the channels on the Pluto app, and I usually spend a few minutes when it comes to the “Fists of Fury” channel. I like this channel because it reminds me of “Kung Fu Theatre.” I was lucky enough to enjoy this bit of kung fu indulgence back in my younger days over broadcast TV. It would come on Saturdays, a few hours before Chiller took over the station for the night. Anyway, imagine my delight when I found 1973s The Real Bruce Lee on the channel. And by delight, I mean what a train wreck of Bruceploitation. Is that a word? If not, let’s just call it Fists of Bruce Lee Fury.

Movie Poster courtesy Madison World Film

Bruce Lee Fury and the Clones

When Bruce Lee died in 1973 at the top of his fame, hopeful Hong Kong Kung Fu actors rushed in to try to claim the dragon crown. There were many potential heirs, but two of the most successful were probably Bruce Li and Dragon Lee (you can’t make this stuff up.)

This is where it gets interesting. You’ll find that both Bruce Li and Dragon Lee star in The Real Bruce Lee. According to the movie poster, Dragon Lee got his start on this particular film. However, there are two earlier movies listed in his Kung Fu cinematic career.

As you watch The Real Bruce Lee, you may have a hard time telling which Bruce it is.  The confusion stems from a confusing plot and clips of the real Bruce Lee. Maybe you can turn it into a game, where you try to figure out which Bruce it is before the dubbed voiceover starts.

Speaking of the voiceover, when you watch it in the dubbed English you’ll find that the voiceover doesn’t even remotely match Bruce Lee’s voice. But that is nothing new for Kung Fu movies of that vintage.  At that time producers were working hard to expand their movies to the English audience. Apparently, there were not that many voice actors to be found. Or so it would seem to anyone who has watched too many Kung Fu movies.

Early Bruce Lee Film?

The taglines on The Real Bruce Lee claim that the movie was “An early Bruce Lee film found in the Chinese film archives and never seen before.” Now, as a reasonably sane person, you have probably deduced that if it was really a discovered film, then the Bruce clones would have no part in this Kung Fu flick. But since they did, well, it was more like old clips that were used to stitch together a new movie.

What is the end result of this Bruceploitation? Well, to be honest, I watched it all and enjoyed it. It was fun to see something from Bruce Lee that was different from the usual offerings. Even if they did have to send in the clones.

The Mystery of Bruce Lee’s Death
The death of Bruce Lee has never been fully explained. There have been many theories put forth, including one that he died as a result of a Death Touch from a Kung Fu Master. The only thing certain is that he died fron a cerebral edema in his sleep.

The 72 Second Mysterious Radio Signal from Space

Back in 1977, Ohio State University was using their Big Ear radio telescope for the search for intelligent life out in the universe. Now, you have to know that this was all the rage at the time, and every magazine rack in the country had at least one or two issues of something regarding UFOs, crop circles, and the Bermuda Triangle. So it is easy to understand that the search for E.T was on. But the effort had proved to be fruitless. That is, until one day on August 15, 1977, when a 72-second mysterious radio signal was received.

The Mysterious Radio Signal Is Discovered

The mysterious radio signal as it was discovered on the printout by Astronomer Jerry R. Ehman.

On that day, Big Ear picked up a signal that defied explanation. Now, this wasn’t even known at the time it was recorded, and it wasn’t until two days later that the anomaly was even discovered.  At that time, astronomer Jerry R. Ehman was going over the recorded data, looking for anything that didn’t belong in the noise.

Wow! Signal profile (Diagram CC BY-SA 3.0 Maxrossomachin )

When Jerry found the signal, he got excited. So excited, in fact, that he wrote the word “WOW” on the side of a printout for the signal. And from that quick scribble by a dedicated astronomer, we now have the name by which everyone refers to this amazing mystery – the Wow! signal.

The Wow! Signal

Approximate origin of the Wow! signal in the Sagittarius constellation. (Diagram: CC BY-SA 3.0 Benjamin Crowell)

The mysterious radio signal appeared to have originated from the Sagittarius constellation, and it bore the signs that were expected for intelligent life. That is, the radio signal was received in the frequency range of 1420 MHz, which is the frequency naturally transmitted by hydrogen. Since this is the most common element in the universe, it is theorized that intelligent life would know this and use this frequency in any attempt to contact other species.

Never Repeated

Although there were many other attempts by Ehman to capture more of the signal in the months to follow, the signal never reappeared. Years later in 1987, attempts the META array at Oak Ridge Observatory failed to detect a signal.  And in July 1995 scans of the Sagittarius constellation made by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory failed to find any new signals.

There have been other later attempts, using such sensitive equipment as the Very Large Array, a system many times more sensitive that Big Ears.  Unfortunately,  all have failed. Even as we send spacecraft out to search the universe, there has been no followup signal received. The signal simply never repeated.

Defies Explanation

There have been attempts to explain the signal, but nothing has been accepted as concrete. There appears to be no natural or man-made source for it. A terrestrial source has been all but completely ruled out. The spectrum around the signal was not in use by earthbound radio equipment, with the frequency range naturally reserved for astronomical studies.

If it did have an explanation, chances are that it would have re-occurred by now. This is especially true if it originated on Earth. But for over forty years there has not been any trace of a signal.

But you have to consider that we are talking about astronomical time references here. Light itself taking eons to travel to the earth. The time span from 1977 to today is but a brief moment in comparison. With that said, I am not convinced that there isn’t more to find from that area of space. You could even say that we went out looking for some proof of extraterrestrial intelligent life in the universe and found it. Now we just need to repeat it for validation.

Big Ear and SETI
The Big Ear radio telescope was used to search for extraterrestrial radio signals from 1973 to 1995, making it the longest running SETI project in history.

Time Is Running Out for the Kepler Spacecraft

Whatever you say about the Kepler Spacecraft, it has definitely been a hardy space vehicle that has returned a lot of interesting data. Bouncing back after several hard hits in its 9-year span, the spacecraft has already outlived earlier estimates about its fuel reserve. But this may be the end for the pioneering vehicle.

Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T Pyle

Kepler Spacecraft Trails Earth in Orbit

The Kepler Spacecraft roughly trails earth at a distance of 94 million miles. Its primary mission was almost ended earlier in 2013 when a broken reaction wheel rendered it incapable of holding a steady gaze at a target. But quick thinking scientists were able to compensate by using the pressure of sunlight.

Discovering Planets
Since 1988, there are 3,743 confirmed planets in 2,796 systems. Over 625 of these systems have more than one planet.

The end result is that the vehicle steers almost like kayak does into the current. While this works okay, the campaigns require repositioning every three months or so. This requires the spacecraft to burn fuel, which limits its useful lifetime since there aren’t exactly any refueling depots along the way.

In 2013 the mission was officially changed from the Kepler Spacecraft to K2, which it remains today.

Still Going Strong

Original estimates in 2013 put the total remaining project missions, called campaigns, at 10. As it turned out, Kepler was as scrappy as ever and managed to enter its 17th campaign earlier this month. The current estimate has the fuel ending in a few months.

Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

But the Kepler team plan on keeping things going for as long as it can. They hope to use the last bit of fuel for a final positioning. This will allow the team to collect all possible data in the craft’s trajectory.

If the past is any indication, I wouldn’t be surprised to find the Kepler Spacecraft still going strong into next year. But even if it doesn’t, it is still the little spacecraft that could.


Kepler Spacecraft
The Kepler spacecraft was launched on March 7, 2009 by NASA. The space observatory, named after Johannes Kepler, was designed to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars. Kepler’s path in the solar system trails the Earth in an heliocentric orbit.