Thursday, June 22, 2006

Domestic Digitisation Discussion: Dull

There's more than one kind of digital switchover. We all know about the one a few years from now when people throughout the land become bewildered that the telly in the spare room doesn't seem to work any more, or that the video can't record BBC3 when they're watching More4 at the same time.

The digital switchover that occupies me more than this is more personal. I still have a number of music cassettes, vinyl LPs, and VHS video cassettes. I am keen to be shot of these, because unlike their replacements, they deteriorate on each playback, can be copied no faster than they take to play, and incur a quality loss every time they're copied. Ugh.

I have a toolkit of strategies:
  1. The David Mellor Paradox. Music lover and Tory philanderer once announced that he owned a titanic volume of CDs. Some wag did his sums and realised that Mellor would be unlikely to be able to listen to them all again in his lifetime. So, I initially assessed my analogue AV collection with the blunt question "Am I ever going to watch or listen to this thing again?". The answer might be "No" because it was gret the first time, but the return on a repeat would be so diminuitive as to make it pointless. It might be "No" because, for example even though I intend to watch "Brazil" several more times before I die, I will be unlikely to do so on 4:3 VHS. And I can always rent it from Screenselect. About half my AV collection made its way to friends, charity shops, or landfill after the ruthless application of this criterion.
  2. Stimulate the economy. If I can buy a CD of a vinyl album, or a DVD of a video tape, then I will. Most of the stuff I like is deeply unfashionable, and available through Amazon resellers.
  3. Ethical juggling. We're in a morally grey area here, but it's quite a dark grey and becomes more so under honest scrutiny. If I've already paid to own something on VHS or vinyl, why not just download via Bittorent a replacement that I can burn to DVD or CD, and recycle the original? Well, because I'm denying revenue to the people who reissued the material on DVD or CD and made the file sharing possible. But I still do it.
  4. Fan power. This is better. I have a significant collection of live recordings of my favourite bands on cassette. Most if these recordings have been remastered for CD and made available as losslessly compressed archives over file sharing systems. I am acquiring quite a few recordings I never had on cassette in the first place, but apart from that it gets me nearer the goal of a less cluttered life.

Anyway, I've been at all this for about a year now, and it's going pretty well. This weekend I will take the plunge and actually chuck out live casssettes I've replaced. 90% of the vinyl has already gone.

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