Santa Came Early, Or Tell Me a Story

As Judy noted, I am enthusiastically embracing the idea of my generation telling our stories for posterity. I have been very grateful to have my Grandpa Lyle’s stories in his own voice (recorded on cassette tapes), and to have the other journals and diaries from various family members that have come down to me. I am not good about writing letters, or keeping a journal or diary, but I want to do something to leave for future generations. Someday they may even be interested in how we walked to school or what moving from one town to another was like or any of the other day-to-day occurrences that are exactly the sort of thing I love knowing about my elders. These are also the everyday experiences that often don’t get passed on to the next generation.

It seems to me that there is an especially important link between people when you can hear a voice and listen to the story. So I have been toying around with the idea of being able to record my sister, or my sister-in-law reminiscing. With luck I might even persuade a brother or two to add his take on particular places or events. I also have a growing list of other family members I would love to hear reminisce and be able to record. I missed the National Day of Listening (Thanksgiving day) this year but I intend to be ready by next year.

And in preparation for this I have bought myself an early Christmas present. I discovered this on the Family Oral History Using Digital Tools blog. (This is a great site for finding out about oral history and the how-tos. I recommend it to your attention.) I discovered this site a number of years ago, and was originally intrigued by the system the blogger had put together to record stories and interviews she was doing. I fully intended to follow up and create my own system. But good intentions aside, life got in the way and I never did. I have a voice-activated tape recorder (I know, how retro) but of course that leaves you with a cassette and no easy way to digitize the recording without buying more equipment that I don’t have. I also have a friend who sometimes can be persuaded to transcribe a tape, but that still doesn’t transfer the voice to a digital format.

Over Thanksgiving, while my sister-in-law was with us, I tried out another device (an Archos 04 series, which is a little movie viewer thingy) – without benefit of external microphone – and it worked sort of. Well, the truth is I think it would work fine for most of my recording. But it isn’t easy to use, and it is actually my husband’s toy, and the battery doesn’t last all that long, and I wanted one of my own (the real reason of course). So I re-discovered Susan Kitchens’ website and blog (bless the Internet and search engines), the Family Oral History one which is linked to above, and found that she has advanced by leaps and bounds since the last time I looked at what she was doing. Her original system had included an Archos, a preamp, and a microphone. It was a neat system that all fit in a metal box and looked very useable. However, that was several years ago. She had recently gotten a new digital recording device that looked like just what I wanted. I read her posting carefully, thought about it for a day or two, and bought one for myself. If you follow the link to her post you will see pictures and read a nice description of the Zoom H1 digital recorder. I won’t repeat it all here, but it looked good, and she said it was reasonable to use and produced good quality sound recording.

I also ordered the accessories kit, which includes a tripod and other things (a carrying case for the recorder, USB cable, wind screen for the microphones, etc.). The tripod is about 5 1/2 inches long, standing about 4 3/4 inches when the legs are opened. It has a standard threaded screw on top, so if you have a small table-top tripod for a camera you may not need/want this one. The USB cable is a standard one I think, with a small connector to attach to the recorder and the usual connector on the other end. (My e-reader came with one that works just fine with the recorder.) It looks to me like the tripod will be handy for stabilizing the recorder. As the pictures show, the record/stop recording button (the red dot in the middle) is easily accessible.

recorder on tripod

recorder on tripod from side

I haven’t yet had an opportunity to test this system officially (more than “testing one, two, three”). I am working on drafting ideas for my sister and me to start with. To start, I am breaking my ideas into time periods of living in different places (we moved several times while she and I were pretty young), and times before my brothers would remember much. As I add later dates my brothers will also have memories to contribute, I hope, and then have stories about home life after my sister and I were in college. Now I just need to find a time and place to begin!

Disclaimer: I am not connected with this product in any way, have not been paid to use it or mention it. I do not have any financial interest in the company or its sales.

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2 comments on “Santa Came Early, Or Tell Me a Story
  1. Pat says:

    Thanks, Susan! I’ll let you know once I’ve had a real chance to try this little baby out.

  2. Pat–

    Cool! Glad you got a Zoom Handy H1. This last week my accessory kit arrived. I’m looking forward to having a plug-in adapter. I bought a couple of packs of AA batteries, and either this little monster eats em like crazy, or the batteries themselves are pretty weak. I suspect the latter, but haven’t ruled out the eats-em-like-crazy option.

    I agree with you that a fancy setup that’s a little complex and expensive might serve as a barrier to Really And Truly Getting A Round Tuit — the task of recording stories. It’s one of the things that makes me so excited about the Zoom Handy H1 — price and features that make it possible for you to stop thinking about doing it and actually start doing it.

    So glad you wrote about this, and glad you found my site again after that long while. Here’s to some good story and memory collection for you. Please feel free to let me know if you have any interesting insights about the process or if you have questions.

    Ho Ho Ho! (Or is that Ho Ho H1?)


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