Honk history

Honk history

A bit of history on a sound we often take for granted:

Car horns date back to the earliest of horseless carriages. In the early 1800’s, steam carriages were becoming popular in Britain. For the safety of pedestrians and animals, a law was passed stating that “…self-propelled vehicles on public roads must be preceded by a man on foot waving a red flag and blowing a horn.”. Of course, it did not take long to realize that a horn in the automobile itself, operated by the driver, was much more efficient.

So new, the horn was advertised:

The Sireno [one device], named after Greek mythological creatures who lured mariners to destruction with the irresistible charm of their song, was advertised as a “one-mile signal”. Another device, called the Godin, was publicized with the slogan “You press as you steer and your pathway is clear.”.

And about that sound:

Up until the mid 1960’s most American car horns were tuned to the musical notes of E flat or C. Since then, many manufacturers have moved up on the scale to notes F sharp and A sharp.

The move on the scale is quite fascinating. As humans, is our taste in sound changing, or do notes, such as E flat, become outdated? I’m curious how many of the most addictive sounds in the world tune in an F or A sharp. In a city where honking is a natural course of the day (albeit not a welcome one), striking a more appropriate note might make a difference.

(thx, Bobby)