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Through My Eyes

Over the years of running my business I have met some lovely people who have delivered to me in person their media for transfer to digital, a London black cab driver who arrived in his cab of course with 50 LPs for transfer, a lady who arrived on foot with her shopping trolley with a box of audio cassettes a 78rpm collector who arrived by bus carrying his treasured 78rpm records in heavy duty carrier bags and a blind customer who travelled by train and taxi to hand deliver his LPs and singles for transfer to mention just a few.

People are curious creatures by nature and love to know things about other people not only how other live and behave; well we get much of that through reality TV these days gladly something I do not watch, probably as we do not have a TV in the house.

By curious I mean people make conversation by asking how do you manage to do the cleaning of a record or the recording when yu cannot see too much or how do you package up the media for posting out and what about the address labels?

Much of the answers to the above is fairly common across the board in the daily life of a person with severe sight loss it is a sort of ongoing period of learning and trial and error based on other blind persons experiences and for some attaining new skills from professional services such as RNIB (The royal National Institute For The Blind) www.rnib.org.uk and in my case I attended back in 1991 their college in Loughborough to do an I.t. course (Information Technology) which taught word Processing, Database & spreadsheets. fortunately for me I had also previously attended the RNIB Manor House Torquay Rehab centre for a 10 weeks stay where I was first introduced to things like touch typing, braille, long cane mobility and the gadgets and devices that could help with coping with sight loss.

Sadly Manor House Torquay set in a few acres of ground in Devon had to be closed due to the financial state of the RNIB after many years of helping hundreds of newly blind people make some sort of decisions on their future with sight loss.

For willing blind people we have some fantastic technology to get us through the day, I say willing as quite a few blind people will never adjust to using and depending on such technology but I think this is slowly changing as the younger generations of people with sight loss are having to grow up with this tech stuff, although more often than not it is the price tag that denotes whether or not you get it whether that be by private finances or government schemes for supporting people with disabilities in the workplace, primarily through ATW (Access to Work).

If you are disabled and self employed it is a much tougher route as you have to meet some fairly strict rules relating to business turnover and working hours to get approval for ATW. For many thousands of disabled people if it were not for ATW they would not be working so is a lifeline for them.

When it comes to physically getting around I was probably one of the most terrible long cane users out there but did survive this for about 5 years and then in 1992 I attended a talk by guide Dogs For The Blind www.guidedogs.org.uk and excuse the pun, never looked back?

I have had Guide Dogs for just over 26 years and my current dog Zag is part of my life taking me into town safely to either send out or collect packages on almost a daily basis and of course is a fantastic motivator as well in maintaining my personal independance, I have a truly caring wife Julie but would hate to burden her on a daily basis fetching and carrying for me so there fore I value being able to stand alone and if Julie goes to visit our daughter I can look after myself and Zag too!

My main computers have speech software called JAWS, Job Access With Speech, is the world’s most popular screen reader, developed for computer users whose vision loss prevents them from seeing screen content or navigating with a mouse. JAWS provides speech and Braille output (if you have a braille keyboard) for the most popular computer applications on your PC. For information on JAWS you can look at https://www.freedomscientific.com/Products/Blindness/JAWS

By researching and some trial and error in my early days of www.mkvinyl2cd.co.uk I had to source software that would be compatible to run with JAWS but sometimes call on other screen reader programs such as NVDA https://www.nvaccess.org/about-nvda/ which is an open source screen reader program. also my iPhone has some very useful apps to assist on a daily basis and with the IPhone with its accessability feature Voice Over turned on is a must for blind users as it can scan bar codes, documents have apps that can read LCD or LED screens and if all else fails there apps that by using the camera facility will allow you to summon sighted assistance in reading something, hence the need to embrace technology.

Aside from the technical computer software and programs much of the equipment used is good old fashioned analogue recording and playing gear, Revox B77 tape recorders, TEAC Cassette Decks, Rega Planar turntables and digital convertors from www.cedaraudio.co.uk

As one of my customers once said when you are working it must be like the flight deck of concorde! sitting amidst all that technical power and knowing how to fly it all helps of course.

A Fitbit Off Topic…

Well this post is a bit off topic from the www.mkvinyl2cd.co.uk usual but here goes…

The reason for this Blog is as a visually impaired person I love walking with my Guide Dog www.guidedogs.org.uk and using the gym www.ledleisure.co.uk/our-centre/exmouth-leisure-centre and like many of us I am interested enough in my Well being to want to find out my exercise statistics in the form of calories burned, heart rate & distance, all when the action is going on, might seem a bit sad to some but there are thousands of us out there doing it!

Nowadays many pieces of equipment in the gym already feedback our exercise statistics via visual display monitors attached to the various types of exercise equipment such as Treadmill, Cross Trainer, Exercise Bikes and rowing Machines to mention just a few. You can now in many gyms link up to your mobile phone via an app and bluetooth to monitor your fitness levels.

The VDUs (Visual display Units) in the gym are for me a big NO! as I can only see light and dark and some shapes even if they had really large writing I cannot access them so here is my solution, my own portable exercise tracking system which I can use when out walking or at the gym, let me explain.

The hardware I use is not specialist to the visually impaired and in fact many thousands of people have them already, the important thing to any visually impaired person is how can they access them independantly, I use the Fitbit Versa www.fitbit.com/uk/versa which is a fitness tracker wrist watch managed by the app on my iPhone www.apple.com/iphone and the phone has a fantastic accessibility function called Voice Over which does a brilliant job in reading the text on the mobile phone screen (most of the time), with a good selection of listenable voices.

I also use an app called ICardio which is developed by www.fitdigits.com and the reason I chose this app was firstly the iPhone voice Over works very well with it and secondly it offers in the iCardio app a voice feedback setting during your exercise workout so you can audibly hear the exercise statistics during the session. Coupled with the iCardio app is the need for some kind of tracking ability so I use a very small Heart Rate Monitor which can be worn on the upper arm which I now find so much better and more comfortable than the chest Strap tracker I previously used.

The Heart Rate Tracker I went for was the Polar OHR 1, from www.polar.com/uk-en/products this is a really neat Optical Heart Rate tracker which connects to the iPhone using bluetooth low energy. It is waterproof and is easily rechargeable and if you want you can have it store dozens of workout statistics seperate to the iPone but of course to download the data from the tracker you will need to sync it with the Polar Flow app which I currently do not use.

My final piece of tech for the gym is my Anker soundsurge bluetooth wireless ear buds www.anker.com/store/soundbuds-surge/A3236011 which means no wires to snag and tangle leaving me to concentrate on my exercise and I get audible feedback while training via the I Cardio app which announces my exercise statistics via the ear buds and also the all important motivational music to keep the exercise rhythm going on a pace or two!

If I am out and about with my guide Dog I will use my After Shokz blues bone conduction headphones www.aftershokz.com these are fantastic as they allow me to hear what is going on around me and through the bone conduction ear pads can have my music as well which is a huge safety factor when you need to be aware of sound around you for safer mobility due to not being able to visually see too much.

I guess the great thing for me is I have all of my favourite songs transferred from analogue to digital by myself over the years running my small business www.mkvinyl2cd.co.uk which was established in 2003 and muchof the music is not available in any download or has never been released on CD.

In summary my gym Tech list is:

  1. Fitbit Versa wrist worn tracker, this has no accessible features on the watch for me being visually impaired but its statistics can be monitored via the Fitbit app.
  2. The all important iPhone with voice Over accessibility enabled so the phone gives total voice feedback.
  3. The Fitdigits iCardio app which monitors my gym work and gives audible feedback.
  4. The Sound Surge wireless ear buds so I can hear the voice feedback from iCardio and of course my music.
  5. The Polar OH 1 heart Rate tracker band to pick up my heart rate and use bluetooth to relay it to the iCardio app.
  6. If anyone has any questions about my Gym Tech system please feel free to email me at: gary@mkvinyl2cd.co.uk

    Professional Cassette, Reel-to-Reel and Vinyl to CD Audio Transfer Service

Who Uses Our Service?

Well yes the answer is of course anyone however, it is surprising that potential customers often say ‘I only have one vinyl LP or its only one Audio Cassette I’m afraid’ but whether it is just one item or as in my largest order it was over 400 audio cassettes it does not matter, the most important thing to me is you have wanted to preserve the analogue media for the future or to change it into a format to make it playable or usable because if you do not do that the item may eventually be lost or degrade to a state where the audio is no longer able to be captured and transferred to digital.

The vast majority of our customers are private or individual people with audio cassettes or Reel to Reel tapes with family home recordings on them which have great sentimental value and in a lot of cases the prompt to get them transferred to digital is from the loss of a loved one who perhaps was the original owner of the media and the surviving family want to keep thos memories. It is probably because in my view photographs and pictures are great visual reminders of something but it is the actual sound or audio that really stimulate our memories, so powerful is the media at times.

We do work for some Photo & Video shops or studios who are often asked by there customers if they transfer audio cassettes or Reel to Reel tapes and those businesses either refer the customer to us direct or take in the work and pass it on to us to be done, either way it is all about helping to fulfill a customer demand and service.

Some of our work will come from Police Forces and Solicitors where evidence has been obtained in the form of a tape that cannot be readily used by those parties so we can confidentially transfer that audio and supply the digital format they require such as Cd, USB Memory Stick or a simple download.

Remember thereis so much private music out there done years ago that have no back up or past records which of course means if that tape or record is destroyed then it is truly lost forever.

We have done much work in capturing audio from records and tapes for the families of late musicians and composers such as Franz Reizenstein https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Reizenstein and Leonard Salzedo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Salzedo also tapes for the family of the late Matt Monro https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Monro and some of this material has been used for archive purposes and for the writing of biographies.

I have transferred from audio cassette many personal recordings of customers relatives recording their memories of their lives during World War One & Two from the perspective of personal experiences living in the UK during the War and of times serving in one of the Military services, also of Prisoner Of War captivity and one I recall of a Boy Soldier in Africa all of these being truly moving to listen to and one in particular was used for War trial hearings in I think Geneva.

I have also transferred old 78rpm interviews from dubs or ‘acetates’ from The Beatles, Rolf Harris, P J Proby, Kenny Everett and work from the early years of some BBC Journalists and Broadcasters who again had audio on Reel to Reel Tapes and audio Cassettes that they wanted preserving in a digital format.

So you can now perhaps grasp that the audio transfer and eventual archive is a really interesting vocation for me to be doing as it is a bit like metal detecting you never know what you might find, and that goes for what you might have in a nold box in the loft as it is not only old paintings that can be irreplaceable but old audio as well.