Saturday, November 17, 2007

In Record Time

A few weeks ago, I was wandering the aisles at Costco (yes, I'm that guy) when I stumbled upon an unexpected item. It looked just like what we used to call a record player, but what is now called a turntable. Whatever it is called, I wondered why in the world anybody would buy such a thing these days. A closer inspection revealed that this was not your mama's record player; it was instead a device with which you can convert your aging and warping vinyl collection to nice, clean digital music. You just plug the thing into your computer, and presto change-o (thank you, Sherman Brothers), you have the ability to record your album collection onto your computer.

From thence, you can burn your own CD. But only for your own private use. No copyright infringement happening here.

This is a bigger job than I thought. First off, I must confess that I have a HUGE collection of vinyl, which has travelled with me from Atlanta to LA to South Carolina to DC, and now completely covers the floor of my small bedroom closet. My shoes sit on top of the records. Thankfully, I don't have many shoes. I'm not that guy.

Really, I almost never listen to any of the records, and in fact purchased many of the albums in CD form as soon as they came out. But there are many many items not yet released on CD, languishing on my closet floor, which I knew had importance, if only for me. And now there is an easy way to preserve them in digital form!

Not so fast, Sparky.

I already had an inventory list of all the albums I own. (yes, I'm that guy). In checking that list, it became apparent that I wanted more than three-fourths of my collection converted to CD. This was a long-term project, getting longer by the minute.

The only way to convert the album to digital content requires the playing of the album, in its entirety, in Real Time (no way to speed up the duplication process). Well, I thought, that could be handled. I can just put on an album, let it run, flip it at half-time (or Intermission, as so many of the records are original cast already knew I was that guy), and go on my merry way.

Not so fast, Sparky.

Obviously, I wanted the digital content to include the original tracks, in order, with the ability to skip from track to track. In order for this to happen, each track has to be manually entered into the computer as the turntable plays it. Yes, it only requires hitting a button between tracks, to recreate the tracks on the dupe, but it means that one can't, say, take a shower or a walk or make a phone call which would distract one from separating the tracks as they play.

Sure, some of the albums are so ingrained in my memory that I can race back to the computer just in time to punch the button. I know exactly when "Cell Block Tango" from "Chicago" is nearing its end, or when Cass Elliot's "The Road is No Place for a Lady" is winding down (yes, I'm that guy, too). But I have no idea when the various songs on "Ben Bagley Presents Noel Coward Revisited" end. I only listened to the thing once (which does not mean I don't want it on digital backup, of course. It's a collector's item! Yep, I'm that guy). In fact, I only bought the album, recorded in 1968, because of the performance of (are you ready for it? You already suspect I'm this guy): Hermione Gingold.

So, I have begun the loooooooong and fairly tedious task of listening to every album I want backed-up. Yes, it doesn't make much sense to take so much time and effort to create my own home-made CDs for items I have not listened to in 20 years or more, but, well, I' know...that guy.