Mon, 10 Feb 2003

A new way of writing is here

Vishnu K. Mahmud, Contributor, Jakarta

Walking away from a client interview, my minidisk recorder suddenly burst into flames. Well, it did not burn per se, but one of the mechanical drives seized up and shorted the entire unit, making it impossible for me to replay the important interview.

Tape recorders are the primary tools for reporters and writers. Although some traditional journalists still use paper and pen, most reporters gather as much information as they can from their sources using audio recorders without having to busily jot down every other word they say.

The problem with tape recorders (and my minidisk) is that they consist of many small mechanical devices. It has many moving parts that are usually the weak link in an electrical device. In addition, magnetic tapes are slowly being phased out with the eventual adaptation of the digital era. CDs, DVDs and even hard disks are now the order of the day, both for playback and recording.

It is also sometimes rather difficult to store hundreds of interviews, much less categorize them by date, time or client, into your archives. You would have stacks of cassettes and, in most cases, would have to erase a previous recording to make way for a new one.

Enter the digital voice recorder. Once a novelty toy attached to a key-chain that could only capture five minutes worth of memos, reminders and lists, the latest digital voice recorders not only capture hours of meetings, speeches and dictation, but can also be downloaded and stored into your computer.

Once in your computer, it can be transferred or placed into a directory of your choice for easy retrieval and reference. It can also be reformatted into MP3 and e-mailed to your colleagues.

What makes the Digital Voice Recorders unique is its small size, solid state memory and additional features. Many brands such as Samsung, Elson and Sony have diverse features for individual users. Some can store and play MP3s while others have an FM tuner built in.

So is this device only for reporters, writers and secretaries? Not really, as a multi-purposed tool like the Digital Voice Recorder/MP3 player is perhaps the ideal gift for forgetful teenagers or adults. Especially in these times, it may be useful to have an FM radio about to find out the latest status of the traffic.

Units that have the ability to connect to computers utilize the Universal Serial Bus (USB) to download recordings and upload music. Some devices can even store computer files such as word processing, games and Internet downloads. Depending on the size of the memory, you could easily store many files and transfer them between PCs.

Powered by simple batteries, these devices can last for a surprising number of hours, depending on the number of hours recorded or the level of volume used in playback. You can use either alkaline or rechargeable batteries.

Major computer malls such as Ambassador Mall, Ratu Plaza and Dusit Mangga Dua have a selection of products that you can browse through. Perhaps the most popular are the Korean brands, such as Samsung or Elson. They range from recording voice only, to playing FM radio and MP3.

In addition to the features, keep in mind the amount of memory you may require. Sixty-four megabytes of RAM can record over 15 hours of transcription; less if part of the storage is used for MP3s or computer files.

Depending what your needs are, a digital recorder can be very useful for your day-to-day activities. Create checklists, transcribe e-mail or even write a book, digital recorders can assist you in completing your tasks efficiently. Considering that voice transcription software is just around the corner, in the future people may no longer need pen and paper to write the next great piece of literature. Just record, download, edit and distribute: the new way of writing for the digital age.