Where did that noise come from? It's a question people have been asking for millennia, but in the past century we started to build machines that would help us find out. Here are some of the most insane moments in the history of sound-location technology.

The Topophone, invented by Alfred M. Mayer, 1880

(via Google Patents/US224199)

A junior officer and NCO from an unidentified Feldartillerie regiment wearing a portable sound locating apparatus, c. 1917

(via DrakeGoodman)

A two-horn system at Bolling Field, USA, near the Army War College at Fort McNair (in the background), 1921

An early Goerz listening equipment with receiving shells

Horn-like sound locators of the US Army

The Doppelt Richtungshörer, produced by the German Askania

A Barbier, Bénard et Turenne device from France

A Dutch device, built from 1934 for the Engineers Regiment and the Netherlands Army in the East Indies.

Miniaturized listening devices for the improved mobility, concepts from The Netherlands, 1930s

Gigantic trumpet-like Japanese electric ears for detecting enemy planes, 1936

(via LIFE Magazine / December 28, 1936 / Google Books)

"Big Ears" Listen for Airplanes, 1938

(via Popular Mechanics/December 1938/Google Books)

A Japanese detector from the late 1930s

The Shout-O-Phone from 1940

(via Popular Science / June 1940)

Soviet soldiers are listening to the sky with their ZT-4 locator, 1942

(via WarRelics)

A maritime acoustic locator, invented by Jean Auscher in 1960

The photos are from the collection of Museum Waalsdorp and The Self Site, except when noted otherwise.