digital recorders are superior ro cassette recordrs
Recently, I was on a panel of writers talking about journalism before 20 senior high school students with disabilities who are interested in writing careers. The students were interested in learning how to approach a story and n what kind of tools a journalist uses. The tools included cameras, pens, tablets, cameras, cell phones and tape recorders. One of the students, 17-year-old Carla Sanchez, asked me, “Mr. Williams, I noticed you have two handheld tape recorders with you. How valuable is a tape recorder to you? And is it a regular handheld recorder or a digital recorder? What is the difference between the two recorders? Should a person like myself who is legally blind use one?”
“They were good questions,” I responded.
Before responding, I recalledconversationsI had decades ago with two editors about the value of using tape recorders when interviewing. One of them said to me, “The shortest tape recorder on record is the human memory.”
A second editor told me, “Protect yourself and when possible record all of your interviews.”
I took their advice and purchased a portable cassette player. It was cumbersome to carry. When handheld tape recorders came on the market, I purchased one. I was glad I did. When it wore out, I purchased a second one. About 8 years ago, I purchased a third one for the final time. All three were SONY products, and they operated the same way and looked the same. The first handheld tape recorder cost $99. The next two ran $79 each. In addition, I purchased six cassette tapes for $5 dollars with each purchase.
Each side of the two-sided cassette tapes ran 45 minutes. In all the years I used a cassette tape recorder, I never had any trouble with the tapes.
The cassette recorders were 5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and 7/8 of an inch thick. They ran on two AA batteries. The batteries lasted about eight hours. To save money on batteries, I bought a battery charger and 8 rechargeable batteries. I kept four batteries charging all the time. Every time, I went on an interview, I took four backup batteries and the charger with me.
The SONY recorders were easy to operate. I pressed two buttons to start recording. I pressed one to stop and one for rewind. Each recorder had a counter that went from 000 to 999. When finishing an interview, I always wrote down the numbers on the counter. I knew then where to begin a second interview on the same tape. During an interview, I put the recorder close to the person being interviewed. I set the volume control on 10. The recording quality was excellent. I never had to struggle listening to the recording. When playing the recording, I used an earplug. I needed absolute quiet when listening to the speaker and transcribing. .
The handheld recorders weighed less than a pound and fit easily into a pants pocket, shirt pocket or purse. A strap enabled me to attach it to my wrist. The strap prevents the recorder from being dropped. Also, I could take notes while recording simultaneously.
I was sold on this technology until September 2013 when I purchased an Olympus digital voice recorder.
The price for the digital recorder was $79. It is much smaller than the SONY. The length is 4”. Its width is 1.5”, and it is 0.5” thick. Whereas, the SONY is simple to operate, once I started working the recorder, I thought I needed an engineering degree. There are 24 parts to the recorder. There is one rechargeable battery, and an on/off power switch. To charge the battery, I booted my PC and slid a USB connector on the back of the recorder into a USB port on my PC. Three hours later my digital recorder was charged. The instructions say I can record hundreds of hours. I have recorded 30 hours.
One other feature of this recorder is I can listen to music.
To record, there are five folders (A-E) that appear in a display window. I select A. and then I press the record button. A LED light appears in the display window. To stop recording, I press the stop button.
A display panel shows recording media indicator, current file name, battery indicator, folder indicator, recorder status indicator, date, time and other activities.
Four buttons appear before the display panel. They are Stop, Rec, Erase and Scene Index. The Scene Index gives me different background scenes to look at while recording. l
To playback my recording, I select the file from the folder and press the OK button. To erase the file, I select it from the folder and when the recorder is in stop mode I press the erase button. Pressing the + or – I can select to erase all the files in one folder or one file. Next I press the OK button and then either press the + or – button and then the OK button. The erasing begins.
When either listening or recording, I can adjust the volume. I purchased a small microphone that I use during interviews. It improves the clarity when I am listening.
The digital recorder is a superior product when comparing it to the cassette tape recorder. It is smaller, lighter, more versatile and economical. You don’t have to buy cassette tapes and carry them with you. However, with all the features the digital recorder has, it takes longer to learn to use it. I carry the operating instructions with me. I caution users, “If you lose the digital recorder and have not made backup files, you may lose irreplaceable data.”
I told the students, “While either recorder may meet your needs, I prefer the digital recorder.”
Sarah Jacobson spoke on the benefits of digital cameras.
Tommy Mason addressed the benefits of cell phones.