May 17, 2020 at 9:40 pm #46359missing_kskdParticipant
Maybe you can distribute this problem some?
Got, say 10 friends and family with space to store these things?
Seems like there are two core problems.
One is knowing what’s there. Surely it won’t make sense to digitize all of it.
The other is preserving what’s there so the decisions can be made when there are time and resources. Or maybe even someone in the future doing it, or going excavating. (someone may really appreciate your choices right now)
No matter what, keep the family stuff in a good space. If you know what that is. We did that in our family. Everyone held on to things. For the most part that worked.
I actually ended up with the only copy of a recording made off one of those record cutters. Great grandfather singing some anthem from Ireland. We did lose some items. Losses, heat, the usual.
Back in the 90’s I had captured it to cassette while visiting in Texas. They thought it was hopeless. But, I captured it anyway.
Figured noise reduction tech would only improve. (and it has) I did the best I could at that time and distributed those copies. They were enough to make people who knew him cry.
Amazingly, all of that recording was lost. Just a couple weeks ago, I was going through some boxes and the original capture was there on cassette. Here in a bit, I’m going to apply today’s tech to it. And get those out to people.
Think different. You know this matters more than you might want to believe right now.May 18, 2020 at 1:22 pm #46375Alfredo_TParticipant
I think that the engineer of The Open Door can do a better job preserving and duplicating or digitizing the tapes than I can.
From experience, I can say that longevity of tape media can be difficult to predict. I once inherited a box of reel-to-reel tapes that had belonged to a high school classmate of a friend. These tapes had spent years stored in attics. The tapes ranged in vintage from the early 1970s through about 1978. In my recollection, the older tapes were either pre-recorded or less expensive brands of blank tapes. The newer tapes were more premium “brand-name” tapes (SONY and BASF, if memory serves me correctly). The big surprise was that the older tapes could be played back without any problems. However, the newest, most expensive tapes were falling apart, as soon as I opened the boxes. There were black flakes inside the boxes and the plastic sleeves holding the reels. As I unwound tape from the reels, the magnetic material started to come off the backing in big chunks.May 18, 2020 at 5:45 pm #46382nosignalallnoiseParticipant
… I have yet to find anybody who can figure out why that is. You get what you pay for in a tape, especially in performance and fidelity, but they expensive tapes really stiffed people in the “how-many-decades-will-it-hold-up” area.
One big problem is acetate tapes. Vinegar syndrome tapes may be playable but can royally fuck up heads, path and deck electronics if the tape path isn’t thoroughly cleaned after each pass.May 18, 2020 at 7:05 pm #46385Alfredo_TParticipant
When I encountered the crumbling tapes, I read up on the subject, and I discovered that engineers had started to run into tape deterioration with late 1970s material when they attempted to do CD re-releases of material from that era. The engineers noticed that the tape would stick to the heads, and they mistakenly thought that it had somehow absorbed moisture, much like a sponge. Some engineers attempted to sprinkle talcum powder on the tape, thinking that this would cure the problem. Please don’t do this; it only ruins the tape and the tape heads!
Some tapes that exhibit the “sticky-shed” problem can be partially rehabilitated through a low temperature bake. However, I think that the crumbling tapes that I have are beyond repair.May 18, 2020 at 8:14 pm #46386Chris_TaylorParticipant
Great stuff everyone. You are motivating me.
Much of the Open Door radio tapes did find a home with the Oregon Historical Society. One of the engineers told me that one day he would like to volunteer at OHS and digitize as much of the remaining shows as possible. That’s over 900 shows in all.
Been going through some of the family stuff that has roots in other radio shows. Damn, my family was all over the radio even before I got into it professionally. No wonder I couldn’t resist the microphone.October 24, 2020 at 8:29 pm #48480nosignalallnoiseParticipant
The big surprise was that the older tapes could be played back without any problems. However, the newest, most expensive tapes were falling apart, as soon as I opened the boxes. There were black flakes inside the boxes and the plastic sleeves holding the reels. As I unwound tape from the reels, the magnetic material started to come off the backing in big chunks.
I’ve been doing some reading recently about the hundreds of NASA mission audio tapes that John Stoll has been working on for archive.org for probably just over 15 years now. It seems the 1- and 2-track 1/4″ tapes documenting the Mercury and Gemini programs, and 7-track 1/2″ tapes of the early Apollo mission have held up the best, while later 30-track 1″ Apollo tapes are a little worse for the wear but he’s been able to get the audio off them through various means of black magic and outright witchcraft (including the ritual waving of dead chickens over the Philco-Ford instrumentation recorder just before a run). Once the Space Shuttle era tapes of the 80s/early 90s reared their ugly heads, that’s when things went from good to bad to worse. Some of the tapes’ being stored in warehouses in the hot, humid, fungal-growth-prone southeastern USA doesn’t help.
According to Stoll, he’s actually had to take tapes straight out of the dehydrator and run them while still hot, since as they cool down they’d reabsorb enough moisture to make them unplayable again! Since they’re all stored tails-out (as they quite properly should be), he doesn’t fast-wind them, instead simply running the tapes into the computer backwards then direction-correcting them in software. Fast-rewinding could, potentially, destroy the tape depending on the level and severity of degradation, and some are far enough gone that there’s really only one chance of getting a usable transfer.
American history is literally crumbling and at the mercy of aging playback equipment.
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