11:44:15 am on
Sunday 21 Oct 2018

Air Check Disater Aftermath
Matt Seinberg

A few months ago, I wrote of dropping my main air check hard drive and losing years of work and audio. Even one of the best recovery companies, in the country, couldn't restore that hard drive. They said there was too much physical damage to the drive itself, which made it impossible to recover anything.


Fund-raising success.

Many of my air check and radio friends came to my rescue when I started a Go Fund Me page. The page was successful enough to pay for the recovery attempt. Eventually, I had to buy two back up hard drives, using the Go Fund Me money.

As I don't do much work in the basement over the summer, I started the disk copying process last week, in late September. I transferred everything on my five-terabyte hard drive to the new eight-terabyte hard drive. It all went well, without any apparent hitches.

I'm lucky that, over the years, I did enough trading with many people that I was able restore much of my audio. I can’t restore a significant number of air checks, though. I didn't convert some tapes to digital format and burn to CD after saving it to the hard drive.

There are many air checks, which I received that I can’t replace. For example, Ed Salamon, former Programme Director of WHN-AM, gave me a whack of air checks; these tapes are gone for good. A good chunk of radio history, as the library at Alexandra, vanished.

I was near the end of converting many cassette tapes. I saved the conversions on my hard drive. Before I could finish editing and burning them, the hard drive accident crashed.  

This past week, I started, again, converting thirty-year-old tapes to digital audio files using my Denon dual cassette deck (above) and Adobe Audition. Some of the tapes came out fine. Some cassettes stopped, cold, with tape wrapped around the capstan.

It was so bad that one of the decks doors, on the cassette deck, would not open. I had to slide off the front, get the tape off the hubs and then unravel it from the capstan. It was not a pretty site. I'll have to do some surgery on the tape, later.

When converting, I generally take a new tape shell, transplant the old tape in to the new shell and hope for the best. Most of the time it works; sometimes it doesn't. Old tapes tend to rub and squeal, but the transplant often solves the problem. If that doesn't work, baking a tape at 125 degrees for thirty minutes in a toaster oven will give it one more play.

Right now, I have three tapes in need of transplanting. Two of the shells will come apart easily because screws hold them together. The third one has no screws; I'll have to pry it apart, which I've done with success, in the past. Audio tape restoration is a long and boring process that takes hours.


From cassettes to CDs.

My Denon dual deck plays two tapes in row without stopping. Tapes can range from sixty minutes to two hours each. When I finish with that chore, I'll break the file into pieces, depending on the total length. A CD will hold up to 79 minutes of wav audio, or 12 hours of mp3 audio.

I generally save the audio as an mp3 file and burn it as a wav file. Audio purists abhor the mp3 format and insist on wav files, only. I'm not a purist; I'm only interested in preserving the audio for the future.

Radio air checks are an audio history of an art form that is, for all intents and purposes, long gone. My friend, Dick Summer, is a well-revered radio talent, from the most creative days of local radio; he had and has his own style of performing, largely based on the notion the listener is intelligent. When I created a composite of his stations, he was quite grateful and enjoyed playing it for his family, many of whom had never heard him on the radio.

Most people don't understand radio history or care for it. That's why I contribute to websites such as airchexx.com, reelradio.com and northeastairchecks.com. Air checks are for sharing and listened to, not just sitting on a hard drive. I learned that lesson the hard way.

I often hear from DJs that are no longer on the air. She or he finds my website, bigappleairchecks.com. They write me, asking for one air check or another; often they don’t have any air checks of their own work, but I do. I happily oblige and, I hope, they have an air check to offer in trade.


I have more tapes to convert than I can count.

I have hundreds, if not thousands, of taped air checks sitting in boxes waiting to be converted. I doubt that I'll ever get through them all. Maybe I'll just pick out the interesting ones and start there. Never will there be an end.

Here's a big thank you to everyone that sent me back my air checks and contributed to the hard drive restoration project.

Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.

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