The History of the Beep

Think about this for a second: how many times do you hear something beep at you every day?  Your alarm clock. Your microwave. That truck backing up towards you.  The big wheel on The Price is Right.  Roadrunner cartoons. We get beeped at hundreds (if not thousands) of times a day.

No, huh? I’m with you. Frankly, I never thought about beep ubiquity until I ran across this BBC article on the history of The Beep.

The word “beep” is not very old. The onomatopoeic expression of “beep-beep” for a car horn only goes back to 1929, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. And the use of “beep” in the sense of a short, high-pitched sound is first recorded in an Arthur C Clarke science-fiction story in 1951.The post-war proliferation of electronic devices has allowed a massive proliferation of mid-level warning noises. Once upon a time, bells and sirens were announcements that something fairly major was happening. They might have started a drill or indicated a large and dangerous industrial machine was being started up.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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