IMG_0615I first started doing interviews as part of my PhD fieldwork more than 10 years ago. My recording device was this portable cassette tape recorder. There already were digital recording devices at the time but they were expensive and could only record short interviews. You had to download every interview after you were done in order to free up space for the next. And given my relative technological incompetence, I was likely to somehow lose the recording in the process.

I enjoyed using my cassette recorder although there was the constant need to buy new batteries and new tapes. I also had to remember to stop the interview to turn over the cassette when one side had run out. But at the end of the interview, no downloading was needed. All I did was take the cassette tape out of the recorder. Paste a little sticker, write down the name of interviewee and store in in some place safe.

This method worked for me throughout my PhD and a little longer. But then trouble started. It became harder and harder to buy cassette tapes. They no longer carried them at the larger electrical stores, and the salesman would give you a strange look when you requested for them.

Then, I made the leap into digital recorders. There were some disasters at first. I never really learnt which button to press so I just tried every one till the little red light came on that meant recording in progress. A few times, I recorded a lot of random sounds and missed the entire interview. But I’m better now, and the technology has improved tremendously.

The digital recorder I use now is the size of my palm. No batteries are needed and it’s charged with a little wire thingy or the USB port. It has a huge capacity increased even more by the addition of an SD card. Download is a breeze and so far it has not failed me once.

Even so with this modern marvel, I still miss using my cassette recorder: listening to the sound of the whirling tape, and waiting for it to reach the end.

~ Stephanie

In the workroom: My cassette tape recorder
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