Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Caught on tape

It's 30 years of the Walkman. To celebrate, BBC News got a 13 year-old to swap his ipod for a walkman:
"It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape... Another notable feature that the iPod has and the Walkman doesn't is shuffle".

Coincidentally, this weekend I was suckered in by Maplin's £40 gadget for turning your tapes into mp3s. And am I having fun?

Oddly enough, nearly. I am rediscovering my love of The Older Woman (a comedy series starring Martin Clunes and Zoe Wanamaker which is as utterly brilliant as it is totally forgotten). I am quietly stunned that I own a Def Leppard album, but with hindsight not so surprised that I own Roxette.

But I'm also a bit baffled. The Maplin walkman-to-MP3 is actually rather fiddly. I've a suspicion that they've taken a few thousand old we'll-never-sell-these dictaphones and added a USB soundcard. For a start, the dictaphone is mono. And comes with some horrible software. What's needed is a clever thing that lets you play the tape and spits out an MP3 at the end. Not a complicated jumble of wires and things that requires endless fiddling to produce a sound file that i'm still not sure i've cleaned up. At the most, the software should have 1 button. Not more waveforms than a surfing beach and a manual about how to ride the equaliser - I just want to listen to the Duchess of Malfi without the hiss. And no, don't even get me started on trying to do it in Audacity.

I guess it's the tape's fault. They sounded fine back then, but now they're horrible. Especially stuff recorded off the radio which is like listening to distant music in a rainstorm.

And tapes are so random. Where is episode 5 of The Older Woman? Guttingly replaced by half an hour of 24 year-old me pottering around a room clearly not seizing the day but obliviously wiping comedy gold while doing the ironing you dull fuckwit.

I have even found an "audio diary" I kept while backpacking. Cos everyone likes listening to the sound of their own voice. Especially when it's squeaking "I can't stop throwing up and Ollie really hates me, I wish I was back home".

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