We all know by now that technology always marches on and media formats always come and go. If you’re like me, you probably have a whole library of old cassette tapes, vinyl records, photographs, slides, film and Polaroid snapshots gathering dust somewhere.
Wouldn’t it be nice to bring all these analog memories to the digital age? Not just for nostalgic reasons, mind you, but for preservation too.
The magnetic tape on VHS and cassette tapes will rot over time, your old photos will fade away and vinyl will eventually warp and crack. If you can convert them to digital formats now, then they’ll have a better chance of surviving the test of time.
Plus, by digitizing them, you can readily access all your throwback memories through your portable gadget if you wish – anytime, anywhere. Who wouldn’t love that, right? So if you want to preserve your old movies, music, and photos forever, here are some tips that can help you along:
Costco offers a digital transfer service through its Photo Center. You can transfer several types of videotapes to DVDs including VHS and S-VHS, Beta, VHS-C, Hi8, Digital 8, 8mm and MiniDV.
The service includes two personalized DVDs with intelligent chapters, personalized themes and custom music. Each transfer begins at $19.99 and each DVD can hold up to two hours of video. If the footage on your tape exceeds the two-hour limit, the content will be split onto two DVDs and you’ll be charged as if you’d placed two separate orders.
You can place your order using Costco’s website and drop off your tapes at your local store. When your DVDs are ready, simply pick them up and take them back home to enjoy. Just make sure the footage you provide them is not copyrighted material.
Every transfer you make also comes with your own private online account at no extra cost as long as you remain an active user. This online account lets you view your transferred videos from any computer or device. To keep your account active, you must view or share videos at least once per year.
Costco’s digital transfer service is not limited to videotapes. You can also transfer film reels, 35mm slides, photo prints and memory cards to DVDs.
Walgreens is another retail location that offers a digital transfer service. With Walgreens Photo, you can transfer videotapes, movie films, HD videos and photographs onto DVDs.
Walgreens also offers cloud storage. This service allows you to share or watch your films with anyone, anywhere, at any time. If you’re on the fence about whether or not the cloud is worth it, your first order includes a one-month free trial.
Walmart also offers a DVD transfer service. Videotapes, movie film, photographs and slides, and digital media can all be transferred to DVD.
Like Costco, Walmart places a two-hour limit per DVD. If you’re still not ready to part with your old VHS tapes, Walmart also offers a special service to repair any that are damaged.
Cassettes and vinyl records
If you have a collection of cassette tapes and vinyl records that you would want to digitize, you have tons of do-it-yourself options. As long as you have the time and patience to record your tracks in real-time, it’s a relatively simple process.
First off, you need a record player or tape deck, of course. On the back of these appliances, look for red and white connectors named “Line Out.” Conversely, on your computer or laptop, look for a “Line In” or “Microphone” port. On most systems, it will look exactly like a regular 3.5mm headphone port so make sure you use the right one.
Now, if your computer does have the appropriate 3.5mm input port, you’ll need a cable called an “RCA to Aux” or “RCA to 3.5” cable. Just match and connect the white and red connectors to your player and plug the other end of the cable to your computer’s line-in port. That will take care of the hardware part.
Just match and connect the white and red connectors to your player and plug the other end of the cable to your computer’s line-in port. That will take care of the hardware part.
For software, you can use this free program called Audacity to record your music to your computer. Just open Audacity, hit record then press play (or drop the needle) on your analog player to start the real-time transfer.
With Audacity, you can edit, split, trim and even enhance your recordings so it’s a must-have program for saving your old format tracks in digital form forever.
Alternatively, some newer cassette and record players have built-in USB outputs that you can connect straight to your computer via a USB cable. For budget options, check out the Reshow USB Cassette Player and the 1byone USB Turntable, both available at Amazon.
1. In-store photo service
Costco, Walmart and Walgreens have photo and slide conversion services. After you’ve gone through your photos, bring the ones you’d like to digitize to each store’s photo center. A sales clerk will go over prices and packages with you. You’ll leave your photos there and the store will call you when can come back to pick up a DVD with your images. These three companies also convert VHS tapes to DVDs.
If you’d rather shop at a small business, check out a local company in your city like Precision Camera. They’re located in Austin, Texas and they’re a sponsor for my show that’s broadcasted on KLBJ.
2. Mail-in photo service
If you’re not very mobile then mailing your photos to a service that operates online may be a better option. You can send your photos or slides to services iMemories, ScanMyPhotos and FotoBridge; they mail you a DVD with all of your images and they return the original photos, too.