I finished up a little project a couple weeks back.
I received an old reel of 1/4" audio tape from Jim, one of my friends at church. It contained a recording of his father's funeral service from 1963.
Could I possibly transfer the tape to a CD-R?
"I can give it a try," was my response. "I'll just have to find the time to do it."
It took until the July 4th holiday weekend to open that window of opportunity.
(I usually like to do some sort of nerdy project on a holiday weekend. On Memorial Day I transferred a bunch of cartoons from VHS tape to DVD-R. That's how I roll!)
I opened the tape box and there was a 7" reel of tape inside a plastic bag.
I opened the plastic bag.
Whew! I was greeted with a strong vinegar odor.
I peeled off the first few feet of tape from the reel. It was all curled and warped, kind of like ribbons on a festively wrapped birthday present.
"This ought to be interesting," I mused.
I gingerly threaded the tape across the head of the ancient SONY tape recorder. Amazingly, it played and the sound of a spooky, echo-laden church organ could be heard!
Recuing the tape, I put my computer's audio application into the "record" mode and let 'er rip.
After a couple of hymns had played I noticed a new problem: the tape was so warped that it wound onto the take-up reel really sloppy. After a few minutes, tape was flopping over the side of the take-up reel and I had to hit the stop button.
What to do?
Then I remembered an old studio trick. I set a container next to the tape deck and let the tape slop over into it as it played.
In this way, I was able to continue recording the service right through the Bible readings and the eulogy.
After a quick bit of digital audio editing and normalization, I started to burn the CD-Rs.
While this was going on, I rewound the tape from the box onto the original 7" reel. The next development was that the warped tape would now not fit onto the reel. I ended up breaking off the last bit of tape and sticking it onto an old partially-filled 5" reel I had lying around (see photo, above.)
When Jim called to thank me for the CD-Rs, I got the rest of the story.
When his father passed away, Jim's sister was in Helsinki and could not attend the funeral and someone at the church taped it for her.
Here's the catch, though. No one in the family ever had a reel-to-reel tape recorder!
The first and only time the tape was played was 45 years later when I did the CD-R transfer!
Jim assured me that he would be sending a copy of the disc to his sister.