What Ever Became of…Personal Recorders?

Do you need to take some notes, or remember your personal thoughts for further introspection later? Try a personal recording device, if you can still find one that is! Once the tape recorder developed into handy portable sizes, all manner of people began to use small personal recorders to keep track of their busy lives. College lectures would be saved for diligent transcription at home after class. Positive personal motivating thoughts could be kept for easy listening during the lonely times. But the ‘tape’ recorder seems to have missed out on the leap to the digital age. Despite the massive memory available on current smart phones and music players, when is the last time you heard someone recording  personal note on one? College students now bring their laptops for ‘note taking’ during class, and virtual Post-Its on computers that send you reminder updates seem to have won the day.

Since we all like to talk to ourselves, these little recorders should still be the perfect extension of ourselves. Then the nuggets of wisdom we spout on the drive to work won’t be wasted on the other drivers, who never really listen. You would, of course, have to have time to listen to the interesting factoids that you recorded, but wouldn’t it be worth it? Log on eBay to pick up some blank tapes, and while you wait for the free shipping to come through, let’s wonder–what ever happened to personal recorders?



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  • OA5599

    I recorded a bunch in school as a backup to my handwritten notes. Probably 95% of those tapes have never been played back. The microcassettes held an hour on each side.

    When DAT was a cutting edge technology, I went to a concert and ran into a former neighbor there who was using his $2500 recorder to bootleg the show. He let me share his table, which was in a great location since he had gotten there so early, but I wasn't allowed to have any conversation once the show started. I never saw him after that, so I didn't even get a copy.

    I bought a digital recorder around 2005 for some meetings with people who had a reputation for saying things they would later deny. It was smaller than half the size of the recorder I used in school, and would hold about 170 hours before you had to transfer the files to the computer or otherwise delete them.

    Now I have Evernote on my phone. It has more capacity, and subject to microphone limitations, better audio quality than any of the methods above. And it's free. How is a hardware maker going to compete with free?

  • Mr_Biggles

    Coincidentally, Mrs_Biggles borrowed a microcassette recorder the other day for some meeting or presentation or other. I had a good laugh at her expense (like quietly, to myself). It never occurred to her that her shiny new Blackberry would do it for her. Oddly enough, none of the people she works with mentioned it either. Many of them are of the age where they were whelped on smart phones. I'm guessing very few people actually use that feature. I've never used it on my phone.

  • texlenin

    I"ved owned one (Olympus Pearlcorder S912) since at least 90,
    and still use it. Making notes for a novel I may one day write.
    Several of the cassettes are now very special and are marked
    as such; voicemails from people whom I'm unlikely to run into
    again, or dead. Soundscapes and weird conversations from
    parties long sobered up from, with people now married or
    moved away. Automotive ramblings, both while driving (how
    risque) and about cars for sale I ran across. Updated phone
    numbers from long lost friends, and business notes from
    the companies I worked for then.
    The medium is not the message; the message is the past,
    and the medium is……..small.

  • craymor

    I used to use my i-phone's personal recorder all the time for lists of stuff that i'd want later, be it an interesting song i heard on the radio or a shopping list. I no longer have a smart phone, so now i just have to remember:(

  • This is how I play back my audio missives…

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  • liroku

    I dunno. One of my co-workers regularly uses an SSD recorder to record students' speaking tests still. I think they're still in use occasionally, but they tend to be used by older folks.

    I think the reason for this is simple: younger people prefer text entered on a computer. Not only can they enter usable text just pretty much as quickly as they can speak, the can later review said text far more quickly than they could listen to it. Text entered into a computer is easily searchable; spoken, recorded dialogue is not (yet). Need to look up a reference to John Bardeen that the professor mentioned? No need to listen to the entire lecture, just Ctrl-F and search for it in your notes. We can see this preference manifesting itself in all sorts of ways–how many kids communicate virtually exclusively though text messaging these days?

    That said, audio tapes are a fascinating preservation of humanity. I'd love to hear some of the old audio recordings of myself and my siblings that I used to have on tape… No idea where they are these days, unfortunately.