Patty Goes Geeky

A techno odyssey

An immersion in conversion

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One offshoot of the book project was creating CDs of my mother and my Aunt Louise reminiscing about their childhoods. Their taped conversations were part of the source material for the book. Because my aunt’s eyesight doesn’t allow her to read, I wanted to take something for her to listen to as she recuperated in a rehab center. The conversations needed editing, which meant converting the original audiotape cassettes to digital.

Rather like memories of childbirth, the pain (or as our Lamaze instructor optimistically called it, “discomfort”) of the process has faded in my mind compared to my delight in the product. But let’s see if I can recall how it happened:

As always, I started with internet research and a smidgen of knowledge (in this case, that Audacity was the editing program of choice from folks in my orbit). I mashed together several sites’ instructions, but leaned pretty heavily on Audacity’s. I got a Radio Shack 3.5mm stereo cable with two male ends (insert Jenna joke here) to link my player to my computer, and encountered my first duh moment: I was trying to link the cassette recorder (which after all, does play the tape) to the computer. That doesn’t work. Why, I have no idea.

I needed a player, which necessitated a trip north to the cabin to retrieve a boombox. Back home, I was faced with a dilemma: I was supposed to plug one jack into the computer’s “input” port, but — I discovered when I couldn’t find one — not all laptops have one. And there were dire warnings about what could happen if I used the laptop’s mic port and blew out the computer’s sound capability. I chose, paranoidly, to go ahead and use it.

Somewhere in all this, I had followed instructions to download Audacity and LAME. I do not know if I ever used LAME — it does something that Audacity can’t related to exporting MP3 files. But I did use Audacity, or at least taught myself just enough of its rudimentary tools, to control the volume and delete unwanted gaps and comments. Then I burned the edited audio to disks. And by pure luck, I found a small $1 Walkman at a garage sale so my aunt could play them.

I can’t begin to capture how truncated a description this is of my trial-and-error process. When I ran out of swear words, I transported myself into a zen place and just kept redoing and researching and trying something else.

Every second was worth it as I sat by my aunt’s bed. Headphones on, eyes closed, she was transported from a nursing-home room she shared with a stranger to the childhood she shared with my mom. “That’s right,” she murmured as she listened to the conversation none of us in the room could hear. I think my mom heard it, though.


Written by geekypatty

January 1, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Posted in Audio, Misc Tech, Resources

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