David Pohl’s Nostalgia Tones


Okay.  Hands down, David Pohl‘s house was the most fun place to go to (out of all the indoor sites I visited to procure ringtones for this project).  After being there for about half an hour, I asked him if he had nieces or nephews.  Why?  Because if I were still a kid, I would love going to Uncle David’s house.  Not only did he have several toys from the mid-60s to early 70s (my infant/toddler era), which he played so we could make ringtones, but he also had a Victrola.  That beautiful machine made me stop dead in my tracks–for a second I thought that Ms. Billie Holiday was over yonder in the room with us because of the sound of the recording playing off of that antique device.  David also made us smoothies with fresh raspberries from his garden (and, when we took photos outside, let me eat some right off the berry bush).  Total sensory overload of the best sort.  And I’ve said nothing about all the cool art work and simple yet smart design all around his place.  OMG!  I just had to get that off my chest…

David Pohl is an illustrator and designer who lives up in the neighborhood of Spring Hill.  I’ve seen him around town for years, working with youth (like Caleb Foss, another ringtone contributor) at the Mattress Factory, and playing or performing music around town–he’s been friends with some of my friends, but I never really met him before.  David was interested in the project, and we emailed back and forth over the past couple of months, talking a bit about what his ringtone ideas might be.  Then one day an email appeared saying he was ready.  I knew of his work, trusted his judgement and went up that hill straight away.


Let’s start with the toys.  David said he wanted to record the audio from these Fisher Price wind ups.  They intrigued me because as soon as he began playing them, I had to ground myself–plant my feet on the floor firmly and listen.  These were Way-Back-In-Time Machine Toys.  Very viscerally nostalgic.  The audio hurled me back to pre-verbal land.  Before I could speak, I could turn these knobs and make these little toys play.  For me.  Wow.


I turned two of the audio recordings (from four of the toys) into tones.  The first (and most powerful of the lot, in my mind) I’m call the Pre-Verbal Back-in-Time Tone.  The second is David’s Fisher Price Concert Tone (featuring the melody of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star).


As for the Victrola (which I did not take a picture of), I decided that I’d make two alert signals out of bits from an old record he played for me.  I think both of these would be fab as email or picture message alert signals–they’re fantastically regal.  Picture tiny cartoon trumpeters stepping out of your phone to let you know some messages have arrived, and, voila, that’s what you got with these compact tones (one and two seconds respectively).  Here is the shorter Ta-Da (SMS) Alert Signal (perfect to set as an incoming text message alert).  The longer Regal (MMS) Alert Signal is what I’d recommend for picture, video or audio messages that arrive at your phone.


The final tone that David wanted to make was very “meta” clever and interesting in relation to the history of phones–he wanted me to record the sound of him dialing his parents’ ten-digit phone number on the old rotary phone in his kitchen.  Those of us (of a certain age) who are feeling nostalgic for family or friends can set this tone as an identifier for people we used to call on those older phones.  It’s a subtle but conceptually striking tone, the Rotary Dial Up Tone.  I like thinking about the sound of someone dialing a rotary phone as a ringtone–it’s a recording of the physical act of someone trying to reach you (whereas a ring just alerts you to that fact).

Thanks, David, for welcoming me into your home so I could archive these nostalgically thoughtful ringtones for Pittsburgh’s Locally Toned.




Filed under Locally Toned (all posts), Ringtones

2 responses to “David Pohl’s Nostalgia Tones

  1. Just found your page while searching for subtle sounds for SMS alerts. I had that FP Grandfather’s Clock as a child, and even remember to whom I gave it. Family friends were visiting, and they had a newborn who seemed enchanted by it. Being an 8-year-old who didn’t really need the music box, I gave it to them. This was in 1968. I remember seeing it in their toy box years later, but I mentioned it to the “baby” (turning 42 next month) a couple of years ago, and she had no recollection of it. Anyway, thanks for the memory! I did not remember the tick-tock sound, only the turn, which was a hit for Tennessee Ernie Ford.

    • Thanks for the lovely comment, Alan. Delighted by what you share. Those sounds were very moving and evocative for me. I am not sure if people go fishing for the tones on the easy-for-downloading pages on the .org site or not, but here is one of David´s tones–perhaps the one you are mentioning–http://www.locallytoned.org/tone/108. Kind regards!

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