Malcom X: A Life of Reinvention – Manning Marable

Malcom X A Life of Reinvention - Manning Marable - ATC Blog
 On April 4, 2011 Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention was published, and the magnum opus of Manning Marable’s life’s research was finally in print.  Sadly, for those who do not know, Dr. Marable passed away 3 days before the book hit the shelves.  Thankfully, he was able to see the book in print before he passed away. 

Continue reading “Malcom X: A Life of Reinvention – Manning Marable”

Analog vs. Digital: Pay Now or Pay More Later

Analog vs Digital Pay Now or Pay More Later - ATC Blog

Some of you have asked me why we still have information on our website about “going digital,” but clearly the fact that we still receive newly recorded audio on “old-fashioned” cassette tapes  tells me that some people just don’t understand the importance of upgrading technology (on a lot of levels).  After 44 years in business, we finally took the “tape” out of our name, because it’s all about the audio!

Today I’m writing about more than “going digital,” but I will also touch upon recording habits in general.  Remember, just because you’re recording digitally does NOT mean that you will automatically have broadcast quality audio.  (WHAT?! You’re thinking, ‘it’s digital, so it has to be better quality.’)  There’s a lot involved in recording, and as the person conducting the recording, you need to stop and think about the details of recording for more than a couple of seconds.  That’s right, we know that some of you already know these things, but do you truly take the time to learn your device before using it?  I know that’s a very personal question, so think about it for a moment.  You don’t have to share.

The quick points to remember:

First and foremost, it’s now 2011, so use a digital recorder!  You can walk into any electronics store, or jump online and find one.  Just do some research first.  Remember, in 2004, 90 % of our clients used analog equipment to record their interviews.  Now in 2011, 95% of our clients use digital equipment to record their interviews.  You’ll have immediate access to your audio recording.  Volume too low? There’s software for you to give the file a quick boost to increase the sound quality.  Is your transcriptionist next door or across the country?  It doesn’t matter where they are located, because you can upload your audio to them, and still have access to listen your audio.  Imagine never having to spend shipping dollars again!!

Clearly the facts demonstrate there’s been a near total reversal in the analog vs. digital battle.  Remember, your transcripts are only as good as the audio your transcriptionist receives, and better quality audio will save time and save those all important dollars in your budget.  Again though, just remember, it’s more than just “going digital”!

You’ve purchased that device, but you really don’t want to delve into the box with the paperwork and all sorts of wires that are tucked neatly inside.  Read the paperwork, and use the wires.  Of all the wires in the box, use an A/C power-supply – it might be 2011, but batteries die quickly, so plug in when you can.  For those times that you forgot it at home, bring plenty of backup batteries!!   Seriously, go buy stock in the major brands, because you will always want to have an ample supply of batteries quickly within reach!  You never know when you’ll have to record those unexpected longer interviews.  Think of it as practicing “safe recording”!

Now you’re sitting there ready to hit the record button, but stop and check recording volume regularly.  I can’t tell you how many interviews we get where the recording levels are so low you can barely hear the person, so don’t forget to check those recording levels beforehand.  If your recording device has meters, refer to them, but also be sure to listen to the audio levels with headphones at the start of the interview session.
Another important piece of equipment to use is an external microphone.  Different situations require different types of microphones, so you’ll need to do a little studying up on what your recording environment needs.  If you’re able, try more than one external microphone among the group, to be sure you have properly mic’d all of your speakers.  This is especially important for any group larger than 3 individuals, and be sure to place these microphones as close as possible to the people who are speaking.  Sitting at a long table with people at both ends of the table? Think about how the person at the end of the table will sound if there is only one microphone in the middle of the table.  Murphy’s law also says that person will be your most verbal in the group.  Conducting a one-on-one interview?   Drop into Radio Shack beforehand, and grab a lapel mic.  The difference in recording quality is remarkable, and you’ll thank yourself later (as will your transcriptionist).
Don’t forget about the longevity of your recording for your archives!  Your transcriptionists do not require large archival files for transcribing, they just require some good audio to hear those words clearly.  On that note, if you’re going to be storing these recordings for archival posterity, make sure you do your research on the latest technological advances in formats for saving your audio files.  .wav? b-.wav? .mp3? Spend the time, do your research, and know the facts on digital audio longevity.  (See our previous blog on thinking beyond the shoebox.)

For a more detailed read, look over our recording tips page, and check out some of the other service providers we recommend as well.

Always remember your ultimate goals when you’re recording.  If you’re going to have your audio transcribed, you want the best recording possible, so give your transcriptionists audio that they can transcribe both fast and accurately!  If you can believe it, we’re telling you to spend a little more up front, that will save you money on a service we provide.  Go figure…

Archiving – Thinking Beyond the Shoebox!

Archiving Thinking Beyond the Shoebox - ATC Blog

In our inimitable fashion here at ATC ( we’re constantly reading through all those emails we’re receiving from different listservs about any number of things.  The latest one that caught our eyes was about how rapidly technology is changing, and it got us thinking on many levels.  WWOCD?  What Would Our Clients Do?  The article in the latest issue of is written by Lamont Wood, “Fending off the digital dark ages: The archival storage issue.” So this is where transcription of those audio/video collections is key to the longevity of your archives. 

When was the last time you tried to play a 33 rpm record?  When did you find an old floppy disk with information that you couldn’t access?  How about that interview of Aunt Lucy and Uncle Joe in the shoebox that was recorded in 1972 on any sort of media that is now outdated?  Point being, anything you record today will be outdated in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years.  Do you have a plan?  Does your customer have a plan?  We don’t have a plan either, but hey, we got you thinking about it. 

As far as I know no company is currently transcribing on sheepskin, but most everyone who receives their transcripts is storing them digitally.  These digital transcripts are now searchable documents, and then they are usually printed and stored for archival purposes as needed. 

The question again is, how often is digital media changing? 

Plainly, your audio archives will someday be obsolete, and you’ll have to look at ways to convert these collections to a new functional usable format. (How many of you are already doing this every 5, 10, 15 years or so?)  These transcripts of the media content provide the essence of what researchers need!

What will you do to make sure this scenario doesn’t happen to you or your client?  Or will you be retired by that point, and leave the “legacy” to someone else?

StoryCorps – Client Spotlight March 2010

StoryCorps - Client Spotlight March 2010 - ATC Blog


Though some of you out there might find it hard to believe, given the long hours we spend here “beating unreasonable deadlines since 1966,” we do occasionally get out of the office.  And when we do find ourselves out and about socializing with people unfamiliar with our transcription biz, we oftentimes are presented with this statement/question:

“Transcription.  Mmmm… that’s interesting.  What exactly do you transcribe?”

Of course we go through our laundry list of fascinating transcription topics, but nothing gets a conversation moving faster than mentioning StoryCorps.

And with good reason.  In just seven years, StoryCorps has grown from a modest startup with big ambitions into a full-on national non-profit movement.


Well, yes, kind of.  StoryCorps is a public service, but its mission is the recording and preservation of the stories of everyday Americans.  It is one the largest, most unique oral history projects, and also one of the first and largest born-digital oral history collections — comprised of over 50,000 interviews, recorded in all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

“By listening closely to one another, we can help illuminate the true character of this nation reminding us all just how precious each day can be and how truly great it is to be alive.” – StoryCorps’ Founder, Dave Isay

It all began with one recording booth in NYC’s Grand Central Terminal in 2003.  Now, in 2010, StoryCorps has recording booths in Milwaukee, Nashville, Atlanta and San Francisco, plus two MobileBooths (housed in nifty fifties Airstream trailers) that have traveled to more than 100 cities in 48 states.

The grand total of interviews?  Well over 50,000 and counting.

The compact recording facilities provide a professional-grade environment for ordinary people to share and listen with an end result of broadcast quality audio on a CD they can take home.  The interviews are in turn added to the StoryCorps Archive, housed at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

You can hear specially selected interviews Friday mornings on NPR’s Morning Edition. These stories are also available for listening on the StoryCorps’ site, or subscribing to the their podcast.  Or, listen to some on the player below!
Put my show and this player on your website or your social network.

That’s our company motto, coined by Sandy, Audio Transcription Center’s founder and president.  Naturally for us, working with StoryCorps is a perfect fit.  And boy, do we love working from that pristine digital audio — although, many a transcriptionist has been moved to tears or laughter (frequently both) while working on SC interviews.

We’ve been transcribing select groups of interviews for StoryCorps since 2006, and many of those appeared in the collection Listening is an Act of Love.  (Our services are available to any individuals who would like a transcript of their session.)

Just in time for Mother’s Day this year, Story Corps’ new collection, Mom, hits the shelves of bookstores nationwide April 15.

New Name. New Website. TTC is now ATC.

TTC is now ATC - ATC Blog
The times they have a-changed…

And so have our clients’ needs…

And so have we…

The Tape Transcription Center is now…

here it comes…



For over 40 (32 of which have been in this lovely building across from Boston Common) years we’ve done business under the Tape Transcription banner, a name that aptly described what was once our basic service.  But the fact is, in 2010, with the world almost completely digitally revolutionized, we now work with audio (and even video!) formats no one had even dreamed of back when Sandy Poritzky set up shop in 1966.

Tapes?  What the hell happened to tapes?

MP3?  WAV?  DSS?  AVI?  As technology has evolved and grown exponentially over the last decade, so have audio formats, the way we receive and transcribe them, and how we return completed work back to our clients.

Just five years ago, roughly 80% of our work came in on analog tapes.  Flash forward to the present, and we have nearly 96% of the audio we transcribe coming to us in digital formats, most of it uploaded to us directly.  No postage fees, no waiting for delivery to start a job, no chance of loss or damage during shipment.  In turn, our already supernatural ability to meet or beat tight turnaround times has been upped by a full 40%.

But still, sometimes we almost kind of miss the holiday-like excitement of opening all of those big, clunky packages stuffed with reels or cassettes.  Almost. In fact, Sandy still buys lunch for the office to commemorate the anniversary of the day we received over 400 oral history cassettes in one delivery.

Audio instead of Tapes.  Got it.  

But how will I find you on the vast World Wide Web?

So glad you asked!  In conjunction with the change to a new name, we are excited to announce the launch of our snazzily revamped website at a brand new URL:
But what about all the good stuff TTC always offered?

Sure, our name has changed, but the way we approach our business hasn’t.
  • Our stock and trade is still the largest team of highly educated, culturally diverse and intellectually curious transcriptionists of any service, anywhere.
  • We still specialize in beating unreasonable deadlines.
  • We still never charge extra for rush jobs.
  • And of course, we still transcribe from tapes.

What hasn’t changed is probably best summed up by this email Patrick received from a client just last week:

“Thank you for being so great and accommodating.  We refer people to you all the time, particularly since you’ve been so good about dealing with our craziness.”

  • We still thrive on craziness.

Why Transcription?

Why transcription - ATC Blog

Over and over I read posts on online, and time and again the questions come up, why transcription? You read this and think, well surely you’ll tell me why, you’re a transcription company. Well, yeah we are, ( – yes, a shameless plug, but I’ve got 3 kids to feed) but I digress and assure you it’s a lot deeper than that.

In our office, we see a wide range of diverse projects that flow through, and the transcriptions range from: oral history, personal history, archival, legal, academic, market research, financial, and surely the list goes on.

In the legal world, transcripts have been known to be an important resource for all parties, a document to easily read the depositions, examinations, and so on. People on both sides of the courtroom utilize the transcript to make sure no lies are being stated by anyone (there’s a lie)…well, possibly to catch people in those lies.

Why transcription? Well, think about this question. How “searchable” is your audio? Say you’re an Oral Historian, and you’ve just conducted hours of interviews with someone. The last thing you want to do is to go back and listen to all of these hours of audio. Through a transcript, you can easily read specific sections of text, copy and paste, and move on to the next part of text you require.

For more information on transcription, check out some listservs, and see what others are saying. SAA (Society of American Archivists), OHA (Oral History Association), and APH (Association of Personal Historians, though you have to be a paid member of APH to be on the listserv) are some great listservs to check out. As always you may contact us, The Tape Transcription Center, and find out more about how a transcript is able to help you!

The Tape Transcription Center
Never a charge for RUSH service, never!