Digitizing Dead Formats


The new Digital Archiving Converter (DAC) in the Fine Arts Library.


Since 2010, I have been the Audio Projects Librarian in the Marriott Library. Over the years I have been asked, from time to time, if there was a way to digitize “dead formats”. A format “dies” when the average consumer no longer maintains or possesses the hardware necessary to play media.

In this case it would be vinyl records, cassette tapes and/or reel-to-reel. As a radio deejay for 28 years, I have quite a large personal inventory of “dead format” recordings. (Or in my case “zombie recordings” since I never play digital music on the radio.) It’s mostly vinyl and some compact disks. My home studio allows me to digitize records and tapes if I want to upload content to my ITunes folder.

When the Digital Scholarship Lab (Audio and Video Studios) was combined with the Fine Arts Library to form the new Creativity and Innovation Services Department, I asked if a “dead formats” station could be established.

Vinyl records are, currently, the only music format growing in sales. Digital sales are flat. CD sales are flatlining. There is research potential, especially in cassettes, for digitization. Many professors or students may have audiocassettes of interviews or folk archive performances that they might want to recapture.

As part of the Fine Arts Library Media Editing Station, a new rack of components has been established to play either records or cassettes through what is called a digital audio converter (DAC). The DAC is the gizmo that converts the analog signal (tape or vinyl) into a digital signal (.wav, .AIFF or .mp3.)

Now researchers and serendipitous music lovers can easily convert old records and tapes into utilitarian digital files. So if you junked the cassette deck or turntable in a garage sale but kept your records/tapes, now you have a way to enjoy them all over again.

Robert J. Nelson
Audio Projects Librarian
Creativity & Innovation Services
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