Over the years, I have accumulated a rather large collection of family history artifacts and photographs that I have stored digitally and on source media ranging from original negatives to recording tape. A segment of my holdings consists of audio interviews and travelogues that I originally created on reel-to-reel and cassette tapes as far back as 1968 that I eventually digitized and burned onto CDs and DVDs.
I recently made a personal decision to reduce and simplify my storage needs by transferring my audio and video archives and digital photographs to a 1 gig external hard drive. I had kept my disc collection in several binders that took up space on my bookshelf.
As part of my ‘spring-cleaning’ decision, I ran the burned discs that contained my archived files through the Alera shredder that I had bought several years ago. I mistakenly assumed my 1 gig hard drive had backup copies of everything. I was dismayed to learn that it was missing hundreds of my audio archives. In desperation, I ran Data Rescue on each storage device I had on hand, from my Mac’s boot drive to all of my external hard drives. While Data Rescue was able to ‘see’ all sorts of files and folders, the software was unable to recover the audio interviews and travelogues that I was looking for, except for a 3-minute MP3 recording that I had made in 1992.
While I still have access to most of the original source material on audio tape, both my playback devices (my 35-year-old Sanyo microcassette recorder and my Tascam CC-222 player) were broken and no longer worked. Instead of accepting my losses and giving up hope of recovering my audio files, I decided to see if I could purchase two cassette players on eBay for a reasonable price. As it turned out, I was able to buy a Sony Walkman on eBay for $15 and a Panasonic microcassette player/recorder for $10. Both of these units were equipped with a standard mini-plug port, and I could begin the digitizing process with the help of a male-to-male mini-plug cable and Griffin’s iMic device that I already owned.
I readily acknowledge that the data transfer process from tape to computer is tedious and time-consuming (all of the digitizing is done in real time) and I need to have a supply of AA batteries on hand to run the playback devices. However, I preferred this method because of my ability to control the quality and volume of the recordings that I would be able to produce.
While there are other digitizing options available such as the Portable USB Cassette Tape to MP3 PC Converter Capture Stereo Audio Music Player, I was put off by reviews that reported that these units often introduce unwanted noise into the recordings.
Although I have many more cassette tapes to digitize before I’m done, I am pleased to report that I was able to recover all the audio recordings that I made when I traveled abroad in the years between 1981 and 1998. At the same time, I have resigned myself to the fact that the one-of-a-kind interview of my parents’ early years has been lost to posterity.