Analog to Digital Conversions

I spend a lot of my spare time converting analog media to digital. This includes diskettes, vinyl records, and video cassettes, among other things. Sitting on a shelf next to my main computer, I have the following devices:

analog

That floppy disk drive you see on the bottom left is a Commodore 1541 disk drive. It’s connected to a Zoom Floppy board, which allows it to connect to my PC via USB. The Zoom Floppy allows you to convert real Commodore floppy disks to D64 disk images, which can then be played on your PC by using a free emulator. (You can also go the other way and convert downloaded D64 disk images into real floppy disks.) Using the Zoom Floppy, I converted the vast majority (basically, the ones that still worked) of my old diskettes into virtual D64 disk images.

That thing on the bottom right is a run-of-the-mill dual deck VHS/DVD-R unit. Mine’s a Magnavox MWR20V6, which (when I bought it) cost just over a hundred bucks at Walmart. The device is very simple to use; simply place a VCR tape in the left hand slot and a blank DVD in the right and the device will make a copy for you. Occasionally a tape will be too old to be able to copy; that’s what the device sitting on top of my 1541 is for. It’s a video booster/stabilizer. With it I can run video out of my VCR, through the booster, and then into my machine’s video capture card. I have lots and lots of old video tapes full of old television shows, movies, and music videos that I’ve turned into DVDs.

On top of that VCR sits my Ion USB turntable. It has USB out, which I can run directly into my computer for converting vinyl to mp3s. The turntable also has built-in RCA cables, which allows you to connect it to an amplifier and use it like a regular record player. I have read reviews of this model where people have complained that the sound quality is not as good as some $500 turntables. In its defense I would say this cost $100, and I most commonly use it to convert vinyl records I find at thrift stores and garage sales, so at least for me, any decrease in sound quality is more likely to come from the source media, rather than the player. There are thousands of records that never officially made it to cassette or CD. Any time I find an interesting one out in the wild, I buy it and dump it.

I have a few other devices, including a dual-cassette unit for converting cassettes to mp3s, and a couple of scanners for turning books into PDF files. My eventual goal is to preserve all the analog media I own before it inevitably rots.

Rob O'Hara

I'm into old video games, old arcade games, old computer games, writing, photography, computer/network security, and of course, the 1980s!

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6 thoughts on “Analog to Digital Conversions

  1. I’ll have to check when I get home. I’ve tried several different ones, as I tend to run across these frequently in the electronic sections of local thrift stores.

  2. @Dave: Once I get things moved over and organized, you bet. I still have a ways to go though!

    @Dar: Absolutely. Unfortunately, I haven’t figured out a way to get my old turntable on an airplane. For now, the iPod will have to suffice in those situations.

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