Thursday, September 20, 2007

Looking into the past

Like most people who have ...ehem... gotten on in years, I have accumulated a lot of memorabilia from my younger days that has moved from place-to-place with me over the years. One of those things is a boatload of cassette tapes. I still have a tape deck and figured it was time to go through these relics of the era of magnetic tapes (yeah, before they had ipods and CDs) and get them into a digital format before they deteriorate completely.

So here's what I've found so far, for your amusement...
  • Several prerecorded cassettes: "Twilight Zone: The Movie" soundtrack (I got this one just for Jennifer Warnes' "Nights Are Forever"), DECUS Fall 1988 Symposium on "Unique Ways To Use Ethernet" (if they only knew....hahaha), Billy Joel "Cold Spring Harbor" (a gift from an ex-girlfriend of 20 years ago, more about that some other day...), and finally a sample tape from a car I bought about 21 years ago (it had some pretty decent songs from the early '80s).
  • Me and two friends annoying my younger sister Hilary (I think she was around 5 or 6 at the time) with the reverb box that I built (I think we recorded this around 1980 or thereabouts). Hilary sang a song through the reverb box at one point ... I need to send her the MP3.
  • An elementary school concert from 1978. My sister Cindy and brother Curt were in the chorus at the time. I knew this because the concert program was with the tape (wow...).

  • Way too many "mix tapes" that were an obvious attempt to either (1) declare my never-ending love to the current infatuation at the time (copies of some of these were actually given to the person), or (2) express my disappointment at there not being a current infatuation at the time. I probably shouldn't trivialize the former so much - it was actually a rather sweet and creative gesture, but at the moment (where I'm closer to the latter) it's more of a glass-half-empty time. Most of these tapes are destined for the trash, methinks.
  • Quite a few sessions where I recorded stuff I liked off the radio. About 60% of this resulted in me buying the record/CD at some later time (take that RIAA nazis...), and the rest are songs that are either impossible to get (some really hard-to-find 60s and 70s stuff) or just weren't worth buying. I also had some really amusing commercials recorded.
  • A telephone call with someone I knew in high school talking about MACRO-10 assembly language on the PDP-20 under TOPS-10. Not only am I showing my age, but I'm also proving that I have been a mad computer scientist for a very long time... No, the person had no idea they were being recorded, and I didn't bother listening to it...much.
  • Last, but not least, some songs recorded live from a Randy & The Rainbows concert at a park in Long Island, NY where I grew-up.
What was amazing is some of the incredible sound quality of the recordings, even after generally being treat like crap all these years and given the relative quality of the equipment I used (low-to-mid-range consumer gear).

I'm probably about halfway through the 60 or so tapes. The second half is going to be a challenge -- the tapes are in bad shape (some are broken and need to be spliced somehow) and I know have some hidden gems. If nothing else, when I'm done with this, I can finally prepare to say a final goodbye to cassette tapes and that technology. It was good, it was real, it was even real good at times, but it's a heck of a lot easier to deal with 44.1 KHz PCM files...

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