While I’ve been down in Wales I’ve been trying to tie up a few loose ends. Suppressed weapons aside this mostly involves hunting down old floppy disks and cassette tapes.

Thankfully the cassette tapes in question aren’t of the computer variety. Strictly speaking I’m probably not too young to have encountered them but in reality I didn’t learn of that usage for the medium until I was a teenager reading Micromart. I’d still read it these days but at something like £2 per issue weekly it rather adds up!

These cassettes are something I grew up with. My mother did read to me as a child. In fact I have some very fond memories of her doing so – especially reading The Bear Nobody Wanted whilst on a train to London. I get the feeling that she too enjoyed that as she has three copies of the book on a shelf to give to other children!

That said we did a lot of travelling. Audiobooks saw a lot of use through an old, purple portable cassette player. I can’t imagine they were cheap but most of them still work. In fact for the most part the cassettes have out-lived the technology to play them!

When it comes to audio cassettes the only way to get data from them is linearly. With the exception of high speed dubbing data can only be retrieved in real time. Unsurprisingly this is a load of hassle.

Previously I’ve ripped tapes using a cassette deck and a 3.5mm mini-jack to mini-jack cable. This wasn’t too tricky but it took careful supervision and level balancing the whole time. Ugh.

More recently my mother bought herself an Ion Tape Express USB cassette conversion system. The software it uses is fairly wobbly but does the job for the most part. If it had a setting for audio books we’d all be better off but it seems to work reasonably well regardless.

The thing being even with specific equipment it’s not that quick a job and has to be done in real time. As a result the audiobooks one finds online tend to be things that are easily ripped from CDs. I’ve done it myself and it’s relatively easy to do.

What this means is that there’s a whole wodge of content left to decay on old tapes. It’s still good content but it’s just too much hassle for most people to bother with.

Personally I love listening to Astrid Lindgren reading Emil i Lönneberga. With her Sweden nationalised grandmothering. Some of these are available as CDs or downloads (legal or otherwise) but others are simply too obscure. Also, I suppose, I already own the tapes, why pay for a new license?

It’ll also make a nice gift for my Swedish-speaking niece. I’ve not decided whether she should receive the tapes themselves or not. I’d have to find out what kind of tech they have at her place!

My favourite little treasure from all of this has to be Holiday ‘66. Whilst in theory at the time I could have seen who it was by (Trevor Neal and Simon Hickson) I wouldn’t have been able to make the definitive connection between the names and their act. They used to perform as Trevor and Simon on BBC Saturday Morning children’s television:

…the duo were instructed simply to be clean and funny but not to worry about specifically tailoring their material to children.

I loved their humour and it’s no big surprise that the bizarre meta-humour found in Holiday ‘66 is from the same guys. It makes me smile though.

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