We’ll say this much on the matter: The oddly calm flutter of the soon-to-be-gone 30th Street departures board is indeed among the greater sounds the modern world once offered, but it’s nothing compared to the fear and dread stricken in Philadelphia hearts the time we almost lost the KYW 1060 AM teletype sound.
Now, AM radio, you rightly ask: Who cares? No one. No one has cared for a long time, and it feels more than safe to say no one will ever care again. But. When one thinks of the iconic local news radio sound, one thinks of this, this wonderful teletype breeze that blew in one day in the early 60s and never left:
Which is still what you hear today, if you have a radio, and that radio has an AM signal, and you know how to use a radio. Which more and more feels like a stretch — as much, even, of a stretch as is the very idea that KYW is still broadcast from a studio where teletype machines are banging out news from the various wire services, where breathless reporters await, hungry for so much news, because the Internet has not been invented and replaced it as the place where news goes first and fastest. But even so, a few years back, KYW tried to remove the teletype sound, and Philadelphians made such a stink that the sounds were re-recorded (good luck finding a working teletype machine) and went right back on the air.
In its way, that’s a success story. In an America that sometimes feels increasingly undiscriminating in every area except the ones where it really ought not to discriminate but does anyway, the fact that people can still want the thing they want the way they want it and get it, too, feels refreshing. And so people wanted the goofy archaic teletype sound, and so they raised their voices and got it back. But it doesn’t look like Amtrak is even in a position to budge on this one, what with the 30th Street board running on Windows 95 and all. (Check out Max Goldberg of local video agency Five Five Five’s homage to the soon-to-be-departed below.)
Like we say, as far as the 30th St. sign goes, this all kind of feels like that. Is it a good thing, that we lament the past as it passes by us? Is it healthy? Will it create a market for bespoke old flipping train departure signs? Probably, hard to say, ask us later. One thing’s for sure, though: Both really are some of the finest sounds ever created by machines.