Making Old New Again

I have been very reluctant to think too much about the world of learning / education / technology since school broke up two weeks ago. So I've actually been relishing every excuse to NOT go online and consider this blogging thing because that would mean re-engaging with this multi-tailed beast of learning in a more taxing and serious manner than I'm prepared to right this minute. That could change on a whim but I have enjoyed heading to the beach with the family (going for three days in a row tomorrow), watching a few movies at the local cinemas and overdosing on a whole season DVD of The Wire over the course of a week. We've given board games a real bash after Christmas and I've even moved up to Number Five on the blacklist on Need For Speed Most Wanted on the PS2, which is as much of a gamer I ever get to be.

The post Christmas catalogues came out and one item at Harvey Norman caught my eye - a turntable/tapedeck with USB connection for the conversion of LP records and cassettes to digital format - and so I went off to see if they had any in stock. They were all sold out before Christmas so I wondered if it was as simple as having the right cable to connect our old "boombox" to make it happen in a cheaper fashion. A quick Google turned up a surprisingly easy result that even a non-techy, non-geek could manage. I have a large collection of cassettes from my mis-spent youth that I rarely ever listen to because of the format they are tied to but as I'm entitled to make a copy of music I already own, I went down to Tandy this afternoon and bought a 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm plug to see if I could get this to work. $19.95 to get a better quality insulated connection and I was back ready to experiment.


The circa 1991 JVC tape deck was connected to my MacBook Pro, Audacity opened up and a few preferences changed before getting started. I had to ensure that I selected line in, not microphone, and check that it was enabled for stereo. Put in a cassette to test the levels and I was away. Now I just want these tracks for my iTunes so a bit of tape hiss is to be heard but that could be erased with a bit of work in Audacity as well. So, now I'm listening to Matt Finish's Short Note album for the first time in many years and hope to slowly convert my cassette collection over the course of the year. Of course, I only need to convert songs that I really want as in the 80's I was in the habit of buying a cassette for only a couple of tracks. Why cassettes? Well, it was the portable format of the time and I remember many a trip over to the West Coast of South Australia scrabbling for a new tape on the long trip. I am looking forward to seeing what I've forgotten about - but being the respecter of copyright, you won't find my offerings on Limewire anytime soon.

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4 thoughts on “Making Old New Again

  1. Clay Burell

    I watched the Wire in less than a week — all the seasons — and it was as good as a week of Shakespeare or Homer (no irony intended, lowbrows!).

    Now to try that tool. I already have the cable, just want to put my Iliad and Odyssey books-on-tape on iTunes. Sweet!

    Best for the new year, Graham. We’re getting old online, aren’t we?

  2. Graham Wegner

    @Nancy. There are a few things that I should have blogged about when using Audacity in a technical sense but I sort haven’t really sorted them myself yet. I just sort of try a slightly different tact and the next recording seems to work. For instance exporting out of the main Audacity window seems to skip saving the iTunes data (it keeps whatever you exported the last track with) and then I have to open the track in iTunes and change the info there. It’s easier to record, copy the track, open a new Audacity window, paste it in, trim the edges of the recording, de-select and export from there – it seems to always export the data, although every time I typed in a file name and hit Space, the track started playing in the window underneath! I’ve also made the error of recording a whole side of a cassette, intending to slice into the individual tracks and save but then have Audacity lock up, start the multi-coloured spinning wheel (this is on one of those Macs that Mac fanatics contend never crash) and lose the lot and have to start again. Anyway, fun to revisit old tracks. I’m also finding that a lot of music was alright at the time but quite frankly I don’t want to listen to it again on a regular basis. There’s a reason they’ve sat for ten years in the back shed.

    @Clay. That is no mean feat – I found it hard to get to sleep straight after a double episode as my head was still grappling to make sense of all the small details. Yes, the cassette to mp3 thing is working well (even though my wife may observe that it may become as obsessional as my Wire watching. I’m glad to read you back at Beyond School, blogging because you want to rather than at where you were obliged. Yes, as we are becoming edublogging old timers, I’m less inclined to follow trends and be quire selfish about where I direct my energies. All the best for 2010 – and BTW, when and where did you do a keynote down under?

  3. Clay Burell

    Yeah, blogging for cash became old fast. Got sick of reading myself. It was a learning experience, though, and a godsend when the economy tanked.

    Gave a comically un-rehearsed and twice as long as scheduled keynote at Learning Technologies Conference 2009 in Mooloolaba (sp?) on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. Another learning experience.

    Too lazy right now to capture those tapes. Requires sitting up and moving instead of reclining and watching open courseware lectures. What’s the laptop version of a couch potato?


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