Saturday, March 8, 2008

Cursed technology of the old kind....

I'm stuck here at the computer again most of this weekend while painting proceeds downstairs. And while I've been here I've been trying to take a walk down my own musical Memory Lane.

First, since we're taking the den apart to be painted, I got the chance to bring my LP turntable up here and make a concerted effort transfer my LP tracks to MP3s and thence to my music library. I know they make turntables dedicated solely to this task, but I'm cheap. The internet is replete with instructions on how to do it yourself--connect this to that, download some freeware, and you're on your way. It appears 'tis not to be, alas. I could hook my turntable up to my computer, but I never got any sound to come out of my speakers. And all that "freeware" ends up costing plenty. I'd even consider buying it if I thought I could make any initial progress (see: hearing music through speakers, above) but since I couldn't, the DIY LP project is kaput. I don't want to spend a couple hundred bucks on a special turntable that I will use for a one-off project, because once that project was over, I'd be stuck with yet another consumer dust-catcher, and I've got them coming out of my ears already. Next stop: ebay. I figure there are others who've found themselves in the same predicament. Maybe there's a turntable out there that is making the rounds of boomer LP owners one by one, use and re-sell, use and re-sell.

The other interesting project had to do with ancient reel-to-reel tapes, of which I have many, dating all the way back to high school, and including a professional tape I made during my "singing career" in Boston. They have been mouldering away in a closet as technology has overtaken them, until now, when reel-to-reel tape machines are museum items for most normal people. Enter our friends Frank and Rick, collectors of all things old and interesting. We were with them last night and I mentioned my old tapes. "I have a reel-to-reel," says Frank. Off we go to their house. He pulls it out of the place it's been sitting for 30-odd years, dusts it off, and plugs it in. When we open it up, we discover that a tape has been sitting on it for as long as it's been hidden away. We set it to "play," and we discern, just barely, Stevie Wonder singing "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" at about a quarter speed. I'm encouraged--maybe it just needs to be run for a while to get up to speed--so I bring it home.

This morning I set it up and put on my Boston tape--and there I am! But I sound a bit tired, singing at about half speed (that's better than a quarter). I let it run, and run and run. But I never sound any better.

So on that project I'm about halfway there. I intend to price repairs for this old machine--it's a solid Sony, after all--and maybe something will come to fruition. If anything interesting happens, I'll let you know. The greatest thing would be if I could "MP3-ize" myself and post me! Now wouldn't that be something!

10 comments:

Cuidado said...

My daughter had a boyfriend who thought it would be neat to check out how a turntable works and took mine apart. It hasn't run properly since. I was pretty pissed about it. She inherited her grandfather's after that and gave it to me but truthfully, I haven't set it up yet. I love my albums!

Ralph said...

We're at the point here where we jsut have too much stuff. My LPs are stowed away in a closet because there's no room near the rest of the sound stuff. I swear by the ipod now--I don't really need anything else. Can play it through my good speakers, cut CDs from it...if I could just get my LPs on it I'd have all my music in one, small place. I'll get there!

Mim said...

Ralph,
Found you through Kat's blog.. when I found Iris Dement's songs awhile back on her site! Love your new site.
Question: Have you transferred all your CD's to your computer and then your Ipod?
My computer is getting ready to die, but as soon as I get a new one I want to do just that. Any advice... is it a long lengthy process? I am ready to get all my music in one place.
I hadn't even thought what I'd do with all of our old albums...(from 60's mainly some 70's stuff)
Keep us posted on how you navigate that as I'd like to do the same.
My husband bought me a great Ipod for transferring all our music but haven't started this process as everyone has told me it is tedius. Have you found it so....?
Thanks for your help and again love the blog.
We are in central VA about 2 hrs from where you are.
Oh and your housing ideas and selling moving plans are enjoyable to read about.. but the wallpaper stripping not so much fun is it?!

Ralph said...

Hello, Mim. Nice to hear from you and I'm so glad you're enjoying the site.

Yes, I actually have done that tedious job of putting all my CDs on the computer and then on the ipod. The ipod calls CD tracks "songs," so in that terminology, I put over 5,000 "songs" on my ipod. It took me about 3 weeks non-stop. I'm retired, so I have the timem, and I sometimes joke that I am latently autistic--I have some capacity for doing things repeatedly. I'm sure most of your CDs are commercially produced, so it's really easy to do. The ipod software reads all the tracks, names them, and files them automatically. (Learning the filing system is sometimes a challenge.) The worst job is doing CDs you've made yourself out of collected mp3s--the software doesn't recognize the tracks, so you have to type in all the data yourself. I saved that for last--it's that CD project I was talking about last week. Finally got it done.

I figured the ipod is a capable and expensive piece of technology that I owed it to myself to take advantage of, so I just kept in mind that the tedious work was worthwhile. And it is! I've put away all my space-hungry CDs and all of the various components I needed to play them. My ipod is hooked up to my Bose receiver and it plays beautifully. Hit "shuffle" and you've got your own limitless music, playing at random, limitlessly. Fantastic. (And I'm in love with the "ipod experience." Sometimes I listen to it while I'm taking my walks. With a good pair of earbuds, it's like being in the middle of the band, or orchestra, or whatever. It's the most intimate, immediate listening experience you could possibly have.)

Those LP to mp3 turntables are becoming more and more common, but they're $200-$300 dollars and that seems steep for what is essentialy a one-off project. Like I said, I think I'll check ebay.

On the house project: just between you and me--now don't tell!--we decided to paint over the wallpaper. Came out flawless. That stripping job was just from hell! We simply couldn't face doing the entire house.

Marchbanks said...

Email me if you'd care to have a walk-through from someone who DID get the DIY LP ripping setup to work, and who regularly uses it to rip his LPs to CD for listening-to at work. I can 'splain what you need, how I do it, pros and cons of doing it my way (WITHOUT Frank Sinatra!). email curmudgn at curmudgn dotnet.

I don't have an iPod or anything like, don't want one if it insists on using lossy compression that screws with sound quality in a big way. (All portable MP3 players that I've seen do this.) I'll stick with my CDs and my 320-kilobit rates.

Ralph said...

Marchbanks, thanks for the offer and I've emailed you, but I did want to acknowledge your remarks on the ipod--the sound quality may be lower to some ears, and I was kind of expecting it to be, but really, I've been blown away by the immediacy of the sound. I'm really very happy with it.

Bob said...

I hooked up a cheap pre-amp between my computer and turntable. Then using a freeware program, I was able to rip tracks from my lps. I've since bought a better program, but the key was the pre-amp.

Ralph said...

Bob, I did the pre-amp and sitll got no sound. I'm obiviously doing something wrong...we'll see if I do any better with Marchbanks tutelage.

Ravel said...

Would you really buy an electronic item from eBay? I wouldn't (think about shipping costs!). We never if the item is in proper working order...

Ralph said...

Hmm...good point, Ravel. Doesn't help matters, but you do have a point....