Converting an old audio or video cassette into a CD (Compact Disc), is the kind of task that arises, when an old technology we used, is replaced by a superior one. The audio and video cassette technology had been in vogue, since its introduction in the 1960s, until the arrival of the compact discs in the 1980s.
Gradually, over time, the optical technology of compact discs and now the DVDs have pushed magnetic tape recording into the background. Compact disks and DVDs render superior quality audio and video, compared to magnetic tapes. The reason being, they are digitally encoded and also last longer.
Converting Audio Cassettes
Firstly, arrange for a cassette player, if you do not have one. You need a connecting wire which links the audio line output of the player, to the line input of the sound card, in your personal computer. Mostly, this is a 3.5 mm jack and it can be easily purchased from outlets like Radioshack. If the appropriate plugs and sockets do not match, use adapters.
The essential idea is to play the song on the cassette player and its audio output, which is an electrical signal, is transferred through the sound card and captured by a software on your computer hard disk, to be converted to digital format. A free open source software, Audacity, recognizes the audio signals and converts them into a '.wav' or '.mp3' format.
You can easily download this or similar software from the Internet like Ocenaudio, AV Audio Editor, Audiodope, Wavepad, Nero Wave Editor and Wavosaur. Additionally, there are various online audio converting websites that can help you convert audio signals to common audio file formats such as .wav, .mp3, etc.
It is advisable to keep the player or stereo away from the computer, to avoid interference in audio quality. Also, ensure that both, the stereo and the computer are not disturbed during the conversion. Start the song or whatever audio you want to record. Monitor the incoming signal amplitude levels on Audacity.
Increase the volume, if the signal is too low. Press the record button in the software, ensuring the amplitude levels. Select the format for your digital file. Use audio filter to improve the recording quality. Once you have the converted .wav or .mp3 files on the hard disk, the job is done. Burn the songs on a compact disc, using CD writer like Nero.
Some ingenious people have designed an audio tape player, that can be plugged into the computer, like a CD or floppy drive. Whatever you play on it, is directly recorded on the hard disk. Go for it, if you can afford it or use the relatively less costlier options mentioned here.
Converting Video Cassettes
For converting a video cassette to a CD, the procedure is identical. The only changes are that you replace the cassette player, with a VHS player or a VCR, and of course, video connectors (wires) will be required. Along with the sound card, you will need a TV-tuner card, which can capture video input signal.
The special cable that you will require for connecting the video output of the VHS player to the TV-tuner card, is called a RCA video cable. These are cables of higher grade than audio cables. Many TV-tuner cards or all-in-one video cards come with inbuilt software, for conversion into '.mpeg' or '.avi' format.
If it's not provided, you can easily download it from the Internet. These software programs too, have tools for improving the video and audio quality of the original tape.
This way, you can convert and preserve your precious video moments and your music. This is what, technology can do for you, by helping you preserve your cherished memories.