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A digital relegation, of sorts

I thought I would share one of the occupational hazards of my job with you … Yesterday, I conducted a face-to-face interview with an audio specialist (oh, the irony!). As always, I took handwritten notes but employed my digital dictaphone as back-up – useful for confirming quotes and catching part numbers that you subsequently fail to decipher from your scrawl.

Carefully placing the device not a metre from my interviewee, I felt secure in the knowledge that his every word was being captured – if not for posterity, at least for long enough for me to faithfully note down a few pearls of wisdom for the benefit of ADLE.

Well, I think you can probably guess the outcome wasn't good … Yes, the dictaphone had recorded (I had checked the light was on and the counter was rolling), and the battery did indeed last the length of our chat. But when I played back the recording, my interviewee sounded mysteriously like he was talking from inside a paper bag – barely a word (from a 40 minute interview) was audible.

Though yours-truly was probably wholly culpable for placing the device relatively near a laptop (I suspect the paper-bag effect had something to do with fan noise), the plush furnishings in the meeting room probably absorbed what little sound emerged from above the fan's hum.

It could have been worse; my notes were pretty legible. But I was disappointed and, having lobbed my digital foe a few hundred yards down the garden, I found myself fondly dusting off an ancient analog recorder that had been languishing in a cupboard for several years. Its profile is so huge that the microphone wouldn't have been the least bit affected by that fan noise.

Mildly ashamed, I rescued the offending article from its dewy grave this morning. Amazingly, it has survived to fight another day and I accept that the old tape machine wouldn't have coped with such poor treatment. But the digital model might suffer a relegation nonetheless as I fully explore the benefits of the latest noise-cancelling techniques. To anyone designing a dictaphone, if you would like a real-world test bed, please feel free to get in touch now!

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