Saving Your Recorded Stories

Remember cassette tapes? How about reel-to-reel? Somewhere in a box in my closet is a cassette tape with an interview with my dad, who passed away almost 16 years ago. The sound of his voice is now so precious. It almost doesn’t matter what he’s saying, so much as having the opportunity to hear his voice. Recently, my sister-in-law sent me a video clip with my son as a then-two-year old. Off camera, I hear my dad asking him if he can see the sealions. Does it matter where we were? Not really. It’s just so special to hear his voice. Frankly, he could have been reading a shopping list and I would still break into a big smile.

Cassette tapes are estimated to last between 10 and 20 years, before the information becomes so corrupted that you cannot hear what’s being said. If you store them somewhere hot, they will have an even shorter lifespan. Damp won’t affect them the way it will paper, but heat is a killer.

The best way to preserve those precious sounds is to transfer them to digital and make multiple backups. (Yes, sometimes a belt and suspenders are the best idea.) Hard drives can crash and thumb drives can be misplaced or get damaged. (I can tell you firsthand that stepping on them does them no good, whether you meant it or not.) Although cassettes are apparently having a comeback in the music world ( for long-term preservation of sound, digital is your best bet, especially if you remember to make new copies every 10 years or so. There are lots of big online services, but I’ve found the best service and pricing from local businesses.