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Unlocking my college DJ archive

Unlocking my college  DJ archive Unlocking my college  DJ archive

This may seem strange to those of you who spend a great deal of time and money shopping online, but I struggle whenever someone gives me an Amazon gift card. I’m usually stuck for ideas, often telling my wife “There’s nothing I really need .... or want.”

All of the music and movies I could ever want are available on streaming services. I’ve got enough kitchen gadgets to start a cooking show. And between my wife, my mother, and my mother-in-law, my wardrobe needs are always well taken care of — before I even realize I need new shoes, there’s a gift-wrapped pair waiting for me on my birthday or at Christmas.

So, when I received three Amazon gift cards for my birthday last month, I found myself scratching my head again. Luckily, inspiration hit when I happened to see my collection of old audio cassette tapes in my room full of analog technology.

Many of these tapes contain the last available evidence of my career as a college radio DJ. Yes, I was one of those amateur disc jockeys who barely knew how to use the equipment, loved to play obscure songs over the airwaves and often fumbled over my own words (it’s not like writing, where there’s a delete key.) My DJing days were actually split into two distinct eras — one as a student at UW-River Falls, playing songs at WRFW, and a second stint as a community volunteer spinning disks at Northland College’s WRNC. Neither period will qualify me for a spot in the Broadcasters Hall of Fame, but I definitely enjoyed the experience of getting to play whatever music I wanted for those willing to listen.

Of course, I always wanted to hear what I sounded like after the fact, so I recorded my shows on tapes you could still buy at the store in those early days of the 21st century. I amassed a collection of about 20 or so tapes, crudely labeled with a general description of what I played that day. “Pink Floyd, Beastie Boys, etc.” is a typical title for one of these tapes.

That brings me back to my pending Amazon purchase. I decided I needed a portable cassette player so I could listen to my treasured audio archives on something besides the big stereo in the spare bedroom. Lo and behold, I discovered that cassette players are not what they were just 20 years ago. Many of them now allow you to convert the sound coming off the tape into MP3 files, which means they can be endlessly copied, edited and uploaded. Think of the possibilities.

After listening to some of my more bumbling on-air monologues, I’m wondering if the audio shouldn’t stay locked in its analog vaults. Still, some of them might be fun to listen to in the car, or with friends in need of a good laugh. Either way, I found a use for that Amazon cash.