Marion Stokes & Obsessive Recording

Yithian

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#1
This Philadelphia woman recorded three decades of television on 70,000 VHS tapes
by Gary Thompson, Updated: June 21, 2019

She mistrusted media but recorded it obsessively for 30 years, created a close-knit surrogate family but led another to become estranged, and was a card-carrying communist who bought Apple stock at $7 and made a fortune.

How to explain the many contradictions of Marion Stokes, the Philadelphia woman who died in 2012 in a luxury apartment, surrounded by three decades of taped television and 40,000 books?

An excellent start is the documentary Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, an engrossing look at her unusual life — an African American woman of humble Philly origins who ended up wealthy, reclusive, and living above Rittenhouse Square at a tony address, where she started recording TV round-the-clock in 1979 and didn’t stop until she died in 2012. According to a 2013 Inquirer story, she had filled roughly 70,000 videocassettes with about a million hours of programming.

On Friday, June 28, director Matt Wolf will host a screening of the film at the Lightbox Film Center. In attendance (and part of a post-screening discussion) will be some of the friends, family and associates featured in the documentary, which examines currents in Stokes’ life that converged in her desire to compile an unprecedented (and unmatched) stockpile of television content. Her recordings are in the hands of the Internet Archive in California, which is digitizing them to create a searchable database of incredible reach — incredible because the affiliates and networks often do not keep the tapes, so it is an invaluable, one-of-a-kind resource.


Full Article:
https://www.inquirer.com/entertainm...ocumentary-philadelphia-vhs-vcr-20190621.html

Information on the collection and a forthcoming film:
https://recorderfilm.com
 

GNC

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#3
Comedian Bob Monkhouse was an obsessive TV recorder too, he had a whole barn in his back garden full of tapes. He had one of the earliest machines, so his archive went back to the 1960s. I think he almost got done by the police for this habit, kind of like actor Roddy McDowall did in the US.
 

JamesWhitehead

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I recorded BBC Radio Three, very selectively, between 1982 and 1991, amassing around 1,500 tapes, all items identified and catalogued on software of my own design. Geek, moi? I think I had read somewhere of Ms. Stokes, who deserves to be made Patron Saint or Martyr to the cause! :hoff:

Firing up the AIWA last week, for the first time in two years, I found it had developed tape-Alzheimers, refusing to even engage with the cassettes. Damn it! It's probably cheaper to replace than repair. Getting the same feeling about people! :willy:
 

Mythopoeika

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#5
I recorded BBC Radio Three, very selectively, between 1982 and 1991, amassing around 1,500 tapes, all items identified and catalogued on software of my own design. Geek, moi? I think I had read somewhere of Ms. Stokes, who deserves to be made Patron Saint or Martyr to the cause! :hoff:

Firing up the AIWA last week, for the first time in two years, I found it had developed tape-Alzheimers, refusing to even engage with the cassettes. Damn it! It's probably cheaper to replace than repair. Getting the same feeling about people! :willy:
Probably just a single component failure.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#6
I'll have a word with Richer Sounds, which is where I bought it many moons ago, when it was a top-of-the-range job.

I am very reluctant it should follow all my other machines to the tip. Some of them were still working.

Now the once-despised medium is enjoying something of a renaissance! :thought:
 

Mythopoeika

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I'll have a word with Richer Sounds, which is where I bought it many moons ago, when it was a top-of-the-range job.

I am very reluctant it should follow all my other machines to the tip. Some of them were still working.

Now the once-despised medium is enjoying something of a renaissance! :thought:
A thing to bear in mind is that if you bought a new unit, there's a likelihood that it wouldn't be as well constructed as the old one (because of value engineering, even on a high-end unit).
 

JamesWhitehead

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if you bought a new unit
There were loads of s/h, unwanted tape-decks on the market a while back. Now I have started looking for them, zilch! I am sure you are right about the build.

Ideally, I want one with adjustible azimuth to cope with recordings made on various machines. My AIWA did not have that; a robust and ancient Sharp model did it via a screw by the tape-head. There are, I gather, better ways! :thought:
 

Mythopoeika

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There were loads of s/h, unwanted tape-decks on the market a while back. Now I have started looking for them, zilch! I am sure you are right about the build.

Ideally, I want one with adjustible azimuth to cope with recordings made on various machines. My AIWA did not have that; a robust and ancient Sharp model did it via a screw by the tape-head. There are, I gather, better ways! :thought:
Does anybody make/sell high-end tape recorders any more?
 

JamesWhitehead

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Does anybody make/sell high-end tape recorders any more?
At high-end prices, maybe, maybe-not. Best looking out for an underused oldie, I suspect. Or see if someone can fix the blown
capacitor - or whatever it is.

I should be much more handy with these things! If I was, I would be parading around in a vintage car! :cooll:
 

Austin Popper

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#11
Might be just a broken belt in there, a fairly easy fix. Parts are available at that one big auction place that somehow still runs in spite of the efforts of the corporate nitwits who are now in charge.

Ahem. Well, anyway, this guy gets lots of stuff off there:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC5I2hjZYiW9gZPVkvzM8_Cw

He seems to unearth some long forgotten audio or video format every week. There were apparently dozens of tape formats I had never heard of.
 

Ermintruder

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#12
Firing up the AIWA last week, for the first time in two years, I found it had developed tape-Alzheimers, refusing to even engage with the cassettes
Give me more symptoms. Is this perhaps an auto-reverse compact cassette deck? Do you mean that it is on (powered, lit) and you can physically insert the tapes? But when you press the play button, nothing happens?


Ideally, I want one with adjustible azimuth to cope with recordings made on various machines
This would be rather-specialised, and getting into the realms (and costs) of Revox / Racal decks. Presumably your recordings are made just as stereo (two track) on A/B sided reels, not something like single-sided 4/8 track?

I have heard rumours of companies making new open-reel decks again. Must look into it.

They may be following the recent retrotech reactivated turntable fashion (which might already have peaked) offering only either cheap tat or lovely-but-costly gems.
 

JamesWhitehead

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#13
Give me more symptoms.
The deck is an AIWA ADF850. I see it must now be 22 years old! I was past my peak taping-period even then but it sounded impressive. I see there is a tour of its insides on Youtube!

I last fired it up about two years ago, when it was working fine. This week, the lights came on but tapes seemed to be a tight fit. Pressing play caused the tape to move slowly but without the heads seeming to properly engage.

There were a few cassette decks at the time which enabled the azimuth to be adjusted on the panel. Some of my recordings had been made on a Technics double-deck machine, which I suspect had not been properly adjusted after a repair, producing a muffled tone when played-back on other machines.

As I know my AIWA has had only light use, it would be a shame to scrap it, if a repair makes economic sense. :pipe:
 
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JamesWhitehead

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#15
Time to abandon tape, perhaps?
Around 1999, I began to digitize some of my 78 rpm discs; there are so many parameters to adjust that it is geek-paradise - or hell!

The pitfall is over-processing, which comes from failing to see the larger picture. It's a time-vampire of a hobby and - in many cases - I was unnecessarily making transfers of material which had been done by others with more professional kit. For the last few years, I have contented myself with downloads of their work - mainly quite legal, thanks to the age of the records! Only recently have I acquired the software to do this kind of work on my Mac Mini. I will give it another go this summer but selecting only those discs which have proved elusive online. Just a few tens of those!

I don't wish to embark on the digitizing of my cassette tapes. I don't expect to live forever but I would like to be able to access again the things I recorded in the eighties. Broadcasts from commercial records now seem much less interesting than the live recitals and concerts we rather took for granted. Richter, Cherkassky, Carlos Kleiber . . . there were giants in those days! :yay:
 
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