Monday, June 16, 2008

Old Dog, New Tricks: Turning Cassette Tapes into MP3s

We joke around a lot in our classroom. One of the running jokes in the room is about our ancient classroom nurse (who is actually definitely not ancient and is a very good sport about the jokes, including programming herself into the classroom phone as, "Old One"). Last week she asked me something about cassette tapes and I informed her that you can transfer cassettes to MP3 for free using one of those cords that come with every Big Mac and Step by Step from Ablenet (we have at least six of those cords), a Walkman and free software called Audacity. It is up to you to decide if the title "Old Dog, New Tricks" is in reference to the act of converting cassettes to MP3s or in reference to our classroom nurse learning how to do it.

Anyways, over the next couple of days she picked up a Walkman somewhere and asked me to explain the process. We never had time. Yet she came in this morning and told me she had already copied several of her old cassettes to her computer. I was impressed, mostly because I thought I was the only person I knew who was nerdy enough to actually research and do such a thing, but also because this woman still uses 3.5 inch floppy disks to save things on (to her credit she also carries a flash drive hanging around her neck).

To make a short story longer I thought that transferring some of those classroom casssettes to MP3 might be a productive summer project for those of us who have dozens of music or book on tape cassettes in the classroom. So when you pack up your room and leave for the summer be sure to grab your cassettes and one of those cables that comes with the Big Mac and Step By Steps.

Here are the easy directions for basic kinds of people. These directions fo not include how to reduce hiss, clean up the audio or anything like that. Links to better directions follow. Good luck.

Oh, one more thing. Make sure you have enough space on your hard drive or record onto an external hard drive as to not clog up your computer with "Curious George Goes to the Hospital" and "Ella Jenkins Multi-Cultural Songs".

1. Download Audacity. Feel a little overwhelmed by its features. Realize you will not need many of them. Remind yourself all those features are free.
2. Connect your cassette player to your computer. Likely, if you are using a Walkman and the "microphone" input on your computer your 1/8th inch "male to male" Ablenet cable will work just fine. Oddly (or not oddly if you are nerdy about these things) the quality of the cassette player matters a lot more than the quality or the cable.
3. Open Audacity. Start the tape. Hit record on Audacity. Let the tape play.
4. Save the tracks.

Links to better directions:
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  1. As usual, Kate, a helpful post. This time you spiced it up with your delightful sense of humour. I was going to skim the post, but had to slow down to fully enjoy it. --Paul

  2. This is SO cool! I can't wait to try this. I have so many cassette tapes and was just thinking the other day what a waste because I have some favorites and was wondering if I should go buy the CD versions. Thanks for this!


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