Hot dust | Odd Blog

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Hot dust

Sounds like a good name for a band. But I’m referring to a smell.

I’ve been furloughed for quite a long period now (nearly half a year now I work it out). It’s been difficult keeping my brain focused at times, seems like it will never end. One thing I have steeled myself to do is media conversions, something I would probably, realistically, never have got round to.

So, I have spent many, many tens of hours converting various media to digital form, mainly with the purpose of preservation and passing them along to my kids. Initially I began with copying VHS tapes to DVDs which I could then rip. I had a LOT of ‘footage’ of my kids from when they were babies and onwards. I promised them I would give them each a hard drive with a collection of the archive, so they would get to see them and I would feel better knowing there were copies in multiple locations! This VHS conversion stalled because it was VERY manual and prone to failure at times.

Next I moved to converting cine films of my brother and I when we were very young, so the early 60s. I invested in a converter which, while not perfect by any means, allowed me to get very passable copies into mp4 form. I still have a lot to do, but they are the less important films and can be done as and when. While doing these I did begin to feel this was my entire life, so stopped because it was proving to be a problem mentally. Maybe all this viewing of happy, youthfull times isn’t good in great quantities when you’re in lockdown on your own!

Other conversions have been the scanning of my paper photo collection (still ongoing). Yes, those photos I took that have probably never seen the light of day since I first went through the newly printed pack are now available for easy digital viewing!

I also scanned a huge quantity of old paperwork; payslips from when I was 17 onwards, receipts for endless purchases over 40 years, you name it, I scanned it. Then shredded the paper. Now THAT was cathartic. Space made.

I mentioned that the VHS converting stalled. I managed to reignite that by purchasing a USB video capture block. I had not considered this as my last encounter with pc video capture was a bad experience. But that was probably twenty years ago, so that’s not really surprising! Things have come a very long way indeed, not least the power of the processing, so this has enabled me to efficiently capture the rest of my tapes and get those finished. I purchased NCH Software’s Videopad editor to enable me to split the sequences up into individual, dated sequences, rather than just have tapes-worth of sequence.

Yesterday a reel to reel tape player arrived, one I won on ebay, a lovely red and cream Marconiphone. To be honest it may prove to be a bit of a bargain. It was advertised as working on play only but as it happens it will fast forward and rewind with some manual help. I will open it up sometime and put in some tlc. The cable didn’t seem right and I opened the plug and it was… lethal! Bare live showing where the cable had split, no cable restraint. Anyway, easily remedied.

So I have managed to play and record the contents of half a dozen tapes that have been hanging around for 30 years. I knew I had played with my Dad’s player when I was a kid. Indeed, the gems of the finds have been hearing my and my brother’s voices from when they were considerably higher in tone – I reckon around 1975 or so. What a joy. Sadly it’s a little difficult to figure who is who, there is a friend in there too. But I reckon with some careful listening for name references I will figure it. What I was really hoping was to find grandparent voices… Oh that would be the pinnacle of all this. But I have only a few more to do and I might not know who they were even if I found examples, there’s nobody left to identify their voices…

I have just chanced across a section of tape which appears to be when I left the recorder recording and it has captured some family life, including my Mum shouting at my brother telling him off!! It’s going back in time to a random moment, a comfortable feeling.

So, hot dust? That’s what I’ve been smelling all day as I walk into this room, that old smell of a hot, vacuum tubed electrical item, burning off the dust. There’s more to it than dust of course, it’s just an old electrical smell that cannot be put into words, but it brings back strong, happy memories. They really were the days.

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