2nd hand MP3 players!

I’ve typed a few times about radio rallies. They’re basically markets for new and old amateur radio equipment, computer bits, and box upon box of various other electronic hardware that have served its useful life. Still, there’s nothing wrong with digging through these boxes of miscellaneous flotsam to see if there’s something that’s worth looking at, or giving a second home.

You may remember I pulled out a perfectly working voice recorder last year for £1. Now, due to the fact that the headphone port on my phone is broken (or rather, there’s half a newspaper stuck in it, which won’t shift), I’ve been using this voice recorder as an MP3 player. The slight problem with it, is that it’s an absolute beast. The microphone on top of it makes it look like a taser, so I don’t like getting it out in public (oo-er). It was still serviceable, however, so I wasn’t really in the market for a new one

Today was the first radio rally of the year, in Ripon. Chris came with me, and right in the middle of a box of trash, he spied a little box. “MP3 Player 4Gb”. Of course, the burning question is, did it come home with me?

Pffft. Of course it did.

It’s one of those little “chewing gum” MP3 players, without any type of screen, or other functionality. The guy wanted £3 for it. I talked him down to £2. Finally, those years of watching re-runs of Bargain Hunt have finally paid off. My first successful haggle!

It came with everything it should have done. Manual, mini (not micro) USB cable, and Of course, the in-ear headphones. I don’t think they’ve been used, but I’m going to nuke them from orbit, just to be on the safe side. As you can see, it’s badged with the Alba name, and has the model number MP420008UK. Anybody that knows anything about hi-fi would probably projectile vomit at the mere mention of the word “Alba”, but if it wasn’t for my original Alba music system, which I got for Xmas 1991, and the CD player in 1992, I’d probably not have the same interest in music that I do now. The hi-fi is long gone, but the CD player still works. , or it did the last time I plugged it in anyways.

So, anyway, back to this MP3 player. What’s the first thing you do with any type of 2nd hand storage media? That’s right, you plug it in, check to see what the previous owner had on it! I think I’m safe publishing this. It’s an MP3 player. I don’t think they’re going to be listening to their personal documents through this.

It seems this MP3 player had a very easy life, as there were only a few files on it. The majority of the drive seemed to contain the same random data string, so it was either like this from the factory, or the previous owner wiped it using a utility. This was entirely possible, as due to the .trash-1000 folder, the previous owner was using Linux. It didn’t come back with anything other than the few tracks that were already visible. The rest of the 17 files were just random system files.

Oddly, a lot of German-named tracks. Edith Piaf too. Coincidentally, Chris was with me when I saw her grave in Paris. Funny how these things come together like that.

So, I’ve typed all of this, but does the bloody thing work? Yes, is the short answer.

Cosmetically, it’s in mint condition. No obvious wear, and the serial number sticker isn’t worn at all. As this has spent (what looks like) many years stashed away, I’m not sure how healthy the non-replaceable battery is going to be, but it charged without an issue.

I formatted it, and copied three, songs to it. They’re the first three instrumental versions from the “Pandora’s Box” version of Hell Frost, by The Unguided, if you were wondering, and yes, it works great. Despite it only being 4Gb, that’s plenty of space for the short bus journey to work. It certainly lasted the whole time it took me to type this.

In conclusion, I’m pretty happy with this purchase. It’ll certainly last me until I upgrade my phone. Now, to choose what other crap to fling on it!

EDIT: October 2019 – It’s appeared to have developed a loose/dirty power switch, where a knock or a jolt will turn it off. It might just need a clean, or it might have just been thrown about once too often. I’ll see how it goes. 6 months use out of a few quid. Not bad.

Hartlepool Record fair – just a few days to go!

What’s black, 12 inches long, and guaranteed to bring a smile to my face? Yes, that’s right. A record.

And on the end of that terrible, and actually non-factual joke (I collect singles mainly), I’m happy to announce that for the first time this millennium, the lovely little fishing village of Hartlepool is getting its own record fair! (Would help if I mentioned the date. It’s this Sunday, March 31st. Oops)

It only seems a mere 20 years ago, since I was rummaging through boxes, buying “Morning Train (9 to 5)” by Sheena Easton, because I thought it was the *other* “9 to 5″, you know, the one by Dolly Parton. Little did I know that those particular memories would be the last ones I’d make for 20ish years, and I’d have to satisfy my record hoarding hunger through other methods, and other towns with their own record fairs.

Let’s get the formalities over with, If you’ve found this through Google, or something similar because I mentioned the record fair in Hartlepool (sutble), and you want to know how to get there, then it can’t be easier. If you’re coming by train, head out and look for the big church. Walk towards the church, and look for a zebra crossing on your left. That’s Tower Street. Walk about 100 yards along that road, and there’s be a building on your right that looks like a smaller church. That’s it. That’s the Studio, and that’s where the record fair is. It’s really easy to get to.

I’m also not affiliated whatsoever with the record fair runner, I’m just over the moon to have one in my home town again, and if the fair is well attended, there’ll be more, and I’ll be a very happy bunny.

We now return you to your usual programming, of me rambling about crap that happened recently, and yes, mainly record fairs.

So, erm… yeah. How to sum up 20 years aof record fairs. For me, they go way back. Pretty much my entire adult life. The late 90s were a strange time for music. Vinyl record sales were dramatically on the decline, CDs were still the in-thing. Music downloads were something done illegally, and streaming was something you did in a dark alley on the way home after 15 pints in the pub.

The art of the record fair was also in decline. It never truly died off, but it’s safe to say it went into hibernation. Fast forward many years. I’d lost my hair, my beer gut took pride of place around my midriff, and all of a sudden, vinyl was back in vogue again, and so, the humble art of the record fair returned.

I think the first one I went to (in the recent batch) was back in 2013, then the owner of Betterdaze (a record store in Northallerton), arranged one. It must have had a good attendance, as more were arranged, along with others in Northallerton. Looking back through the collection, I’ve came back with some cracking stuff from all of them. I mean, who could turn down a 12” pressing of “Seven Tears by The Goombay Dance Band, on clear yellow vinyl? Not me! I picked it up from Middlesbrough on 12th September 2015.

Recently, I’ve travelled as far as Leeds, just to get toa record fair. They was an ordeal. Absolutely worth it for the German pressing of “Downtown” and “Another Man“by One 2 Many. In fact, you can view all of the records I bought that particular day.

So, in conclusion, yes, if you attend this record fair, there is a very high possibility I will be in attendance. Say hello. Actually, no, don’t. I don’t mix well with strangers, and I’m out the night before, so there’s a strong chance I’ll be hanging out my hoop, and not willing to talk to anyone.

If you do go, I hope you find some bargains!

Then We’ll have Steak And Chips for tea.

Bleeergh. I’ve felt lousy over the last few days. Unfortunately, the lovely fishing village of Hartlepool appears to have some type of cold / flu bug doing the rounds. Daddykins had it last week, and spent over 24 hours in bed because of it. I started getting the ol’ throaty tingle on Sunday night. By Wednesday, I’d flung in the 6 hours of lieu time that I’d accrued and headed off to bed myself. The rest of the week saw me throw in the first sick days in three years (I’m discounting foot/eye problems in that).

Saturday came, and Chris was available for a trip somewhere. I explained about this record shop I’d heard about in Darlington, so off to Darlington we went.

Now, seeing as Darlington is a short distance away, it’s somewhere I opften go to as a change of scenery from the normal charity shops. I also knew that the afore-mentioned record shop existed, but every time I’d been there, it was closed. Oddly enough, it wasn’t actually in the location I thought, as it’s recently moved location. Previously, it was in a courtyard, away from the main drag. Now, it was in its own little shop, which, as of July 2018, was an empty sewing shop. Thank you, Streetview.

Anyway, I entered the shop, and started digging through the first pile of 7″ers I came to, tucked away on a shelf. The guy behind the counter saw I was interested, and told me he was getting shot of them, 10p each, or I could have the lot for £20. Whilst the latter offer seemed tempting, getting them from the shop, to Chris’s car, would have been a logistical nightmare, and where would I store them when I got them home? I decided to just go for the 10p option. It was easier.

I can’t have been more than a minute into picking through this vast vinyl variety, and I came across something incredible. Cue, the wibbly flashbacks, etc.

Back in 1975, Mike Oldfield was the new music sensation discovered by Richard Branson. His debit album, and of course, the first single from it, imaginatively titled “Mike Oldfield’s Single” was released, and Virgin, as a music label, was born

Neither that single, or Tubular Bells, are particularly difficult to find. This can’t be said for Mike’s follow-up single, “Don Alfonso”. It’s a charming little ditty about a Spanish bullfighter…. In fact, here’s a YouTube link to it… this will probably die at some point, so if it doesn’t work, comment on this post or something.

The guy who played him in the video is Larry Martyn, who was in Are You Being Served. There. Saved you looking him up.

Despite the brilliant 70s comedy video, the song appeared to have been quickly withdrawn, and failed to chart anywhere. The B side was Mike’s first working of his famous Xmas hit, entitled “In Dulci Jubilo (For Maureen)”. Maureen was his mother who had died a year previous to this being released. A year or two later, Mike would release a remixed version of “In Dulci Jubilo”, reaching No. 4 in the singles chart.

I think this is where the issue occurred, and how this got thrown into the pile of records he was trying to get rid of. Now, I’m only speculating here, but I noticed that a previous owner had written “In Dulci Jubilo” on the cover. As both singles share the same black and white “Twins” label, it’s possible, that this was mistaken for the much more common release. Either way, I can’t say for certain, but what I do know that this was the bargain of the year so far, possibly ever.

Here it is, in all its vinyl glory…

My new toy

What’s got 2 legs, drinks crap beer and spends far too much in charity shops?

Well, I doubt I even need to answer that question, for you know that idiot is me. When it comes to charity shop shopping, I have two rules, never buy anything over a fiver, and never buy anything electrical.

So, on Thursday, I bought a £6 tape recorder.

This isn’t just any tape recorder, it’s a 4-channel tape recorder. Something I’ve never seen before, but apparently, they were once a thing. And this one is in really good condition

For some time, I’ve been after something that can play tapes. I’ve been after one to hook up to my computer, as I still have a load of tapes from my childhood to go through, and convert. I’m sure I was an absolute scream when I was 9, but it’s things like the old radio clips I want to convert. I do have a USB one, but the sound quality is dubious at best. I wanted something a but more… sturdy.

On Thursday, after knocking back a bag of chips for my dinner, I sauntered back to work. and decided to check out the Alice House charity shop. I was on the mooch for CDs, after only picking up a small amount on my travels. Before I even got to see the rotating plastic demons, something caught the very corner of my good eye. It looked like a tape recorder. And, clearly it was! I took it over to the little seating area they have, and by the time I’d sat down, a complete stranger said “You’ve got a bargain there!”. Upon closer examination, the sticker shows that it had only been PAT tested the day before, so yeah, it looks like I was indeed the first one to pick up the bargain!

Now, despite the obvious difference of having more knobs than a Taiwanese brothel, I didn’t quite know what I had hold of. Turns out it wasn’t just any old tape recorder. This beauty has the rare ability to record an all four tracks of a cassette tape. For the uninitiated, cassettes tapes have four tracks on them, but you only ever hear two of them at a time, the left and right channel. You turn the tape over, and you hear the other two left and right channels. This particular recorder uses all 4 tracks on the tape at once. Back in the day, it was a simple and relatively easy way to get a multi-track setup for home recording.

Last night, I plugged it in to make sure it all worked. And it did! One slight problem was that it was playing all 4 tracks at once, meaning at Side A was being played forwards, and Side B was being played backwards. 4 channels, y’see… there must be a way to have it just play stereo, but time was getting on, and I demoted it to the cupboard. I had a feeling it might have stayed there for a while.

I was speaking to a lad at work who knows more about this type of stuff than I do, he said just change the pan and tilt controls, and set channels 1 and 2 to L/R. This was too obvious to work

My interest in the device was rekindled. I’d planned in my head how I was going to announce my new bargain to the world. I hadn’t knocked up a Youtube video for a while. My camera battery was charged AND I knew where all the bits of my tripod were. This was all falling into a place.

I even got home and shot the beginning of the video. There was also a truly hilarious joke that I was going to include that saw me plug the power adaptor in, I’d then turn the light off, and then edit it so it looked like it tripped the lights, followed by a truncated “OHHH, FUUUU.”, and then immediately cut to the close-up shot of the tape recorder all set up and working, followed with “Only joking!”

This is where karma kicked me right in the balls. I’d got it set up, camera positioned, aaaand, the power supply for it went south. The power light was flickering, and the output lights were jumping around. I was not amused. Turns out the bit of cable that goes into the power supply is intermittent. Looks like someone’s picked up the (relatively heavy and brick-like – you can see it in the bottom left of that screenshot) power supply by the cable, and stretched it to near breaking point. Could this be the reason why it looked so good? Was the previous owners’ attempt to use it thwarted by a small piece of cable? I will never know,

One thing I do know is that it’s working again, after fashioning a makeshift splint from a bit of masking tape and some cable ties. I’ll farthom out a more glamorous s

I’ve yet to hook it up properly to my computer to have a proper play around with it, but I’m eager to see if it sounds as good as it looks…

Das ist a nice keyboard!

OK, well I know that the last proper blog post (ignore the Facebook one) was about keyboards. Well, you’ll be excited to know that this one is too. Of course, you only have to scroll down slightly to find the “absolute bargain” with that Dell keyboards.. a little bit of spit and polish (rather, a load of Cillit Bang, and even more of those disposable blue cloths), and it was back up and running.

Anyway, Thursday, is of course, market day. I’ve mentioned this many times. Sometimes, I weep when I find a badly treated CD that I’ve been after, sometimes I laugh at the prices that some of the stall holders charge, and sometimes, I swear in disbelief at the bargains that can be had, when the person just doesn’t know what they’re selling.

So, I was on an early shift at work. It was sunny, and all of those two things combined mean that I headed off to the flea market. You gathered that, otherwise I wouldn’t be typing this now. The first stall is always a hive of miscellany. My eyes were immediately drawn to a box of records. No surprise there, but the next box along stopped me dead in my tracks. The records no longer had any significance. There were keyboards. and there was one that stood out in particular. A huge one. A single keypress immediate;y informed me that this was no ordinary keyboard, it was mechanical. The satisfying clack of the key. The overall look of the beast. The fact that it looked practically brand new.. There just had to be a catch somewhere.

I grabbed it instantly, and went over to the guy selling them. £2 each. What? Money exchanged hands, and I walked away with a keyboard. I had no idea if it worked. I walked through the town clutching this keyboard, I must have looked a complete wally., but I don’t care. A mechanical keyboard for less than the price of a pint.

It’s actually perfect timing. Some of you have noticed when I’m typing something that there are double characters especially Cs and Ys. It appears that those two switches are possibly on the way out. They might just need cleaning, or they might need replacing entirely. One thing I know is that it’s not easy to do, so I was sort-of hesitating over getting a different keyboard. I suppose this will have to do for now!

Right, so far, I’ve raved about my purchase. I do have a couple of reservations about it. It’s a touch-type keyboard, meaning that none of the keys have marks. It’s completely blank. One thing is though, I’m typing using it now, and the words are flowing like beer from a keg. There are obviously the odd mistakes, but they creep into my typing anyway. Using this might actually improve my already fantastic typing abilities. Ahem.

Another thing is that… I’m not sure it’s a genuine product. It’s by Das Keyboards. A name I’ve actually heard of. This one is apparently the MX3000. There is a Cherry keyboard of very, very similar design, though checking out the Youtube videos on it, It looks better made, I’ve had Cherry keyboards in the past that have had different branding on them, so it might just be a case of that.

Just look at how plain the logo is though.

I’m not going to rip it apart to find out to see if there’s anything more identifiable on the parts inside,, but I do know that the switches are Cherry branded

There’s also the fact that it’s an ANSI keyboard (American), as opposed to the ISO (UK) standard. It’s not much of a problem, but the smaller return key, and you can only get to the backslash by pressing AltGR and # as there’s no dedicated key for it. Seeing as I use the backslash key a lot MIGHT prove an annoyance, but I’ll wait and see.

I’ve been using this as my main keyboard since Thursday now, and I’ve had absolutely no other issues with it. I’m surprised how quickly I got used to not having letters on the keys. As I said, maybe this will improve my typing, maybe I’ll get sick of it and fling it in the cupboard with the other 5,000 keyboards that I own.

But yeah, no letters!

Car boots, football, obscure tapes and manky keyboards

hmmm. It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update. I’ve had a bit of writers’ block. Well, I wrote a couple of things, but they just ended in vitriolic rants about certain people. Thankfully, however, last week was a week off work, so I’ve had time to catch up with things that I love. Record collecting, for example.

The last couple of weeks have certainly been part of a record collecting binge. This is the first time since I was a kid that I remember having such a long, hot summer, and since the weathermen have guaranteed long, hot weekends, I’ve been able to arrange trips to car boot sales with Chris. Last week, it was Seaham, and the week before was Sedgefield.

Now, I’m sure I started typing about the Sedgefield one, but I can’t find any trace of it, so I mught have dreamt it, but basically, I bought lots and lots of CDs and records. £2 entry fee, which wasn’t too bad. I just remember knocking out some crap jokes. A guy selling plants, and I said to Chris “they’re mint, them”. Of course, it was an actual mind plant. Shris laughed. the guy behind the stall said he must have been easily amused. I was just happy that someone else heard the joke. On another stall, I commented that one of the CDs he was selling was Absolute Garbage I had to spell it out to the store owner, who seemed to be slightly offended that I happened to be slagging off one of his CDs. No mate, just a crap pun.

It seemed to close early, as most of the people were packing up to go see England play. By the time I’d got home, they’d scored 5 goals. Turned out to be a great day overall.

Another week passed, and it was time flr the first Middlesbrough record fair. This was the first one for two years, and it was nice to have it back! Unfortunately, the day ended in absolute disaster… hanging around for three hours for a lift, only for my lift’s battery to run flat, and having to get the bus home anyway. I was fuming, and my foot went up like a pudding because of it. Great times.

I did bump into Glen – a fellow blogger and ex-work colleague whom I’ve not mentioned on here for what must be a decade, vut we had a bloody good catchup for about an hour. Preally nice to see him again.

Sunday arrived, and another visit to a car boot sale was arranged. Chris wanted some “tat” for “something” – saying what he wanted, and what for might actually spoil a surprise for someone, so I won’t say what. Of course, there’s absolutely no chance that the person involved will ever read this blog, but you never know. Stranger things have happened.

Anyway, we turned up, nice and early at the car boot. Roughly 9AM. There were a queue of cars waiting to get in and set up, but not many buyers. Had we got there too early? Well. Turns out that if you’re a buyer, it costs you £5 to get in before 11:30. the doors then close between 11:30 and 12:30, meaning if you want to get in early, you pay an inflated price. If you want to pay the cheap price, you’ve got to then queue for an hour, and miss out on potential bargains. Crafty.

Seeing as there were very few stalls set up, and it didn’t look that big anyway, myself and Chris went to Sunderland. Honestly, you’ve heard of ghost towns. You’ve never seen a ghost town until you’ve walked around Sunderland city centre at 9:30. My word. Even the pigeons were hobbling about, looking like they had hangovers.

I couldn’t bear the thought of being in Sunderland for any time longer than I needed to, so I quickly abandoned the idea of hanging around there for two hours, then queuing in the baking sun. Instead, I bit the bullet, paid myself and Chris into the car boot at the inflated price. Damn them. their cunning plan worked.

Unfortunately, there seemed to be more stalls selling absolute garbage than music, which, to me was a little saddening, although I did come home with quite a few CDs, a Zodion SS6 photocell for a streetlight, and a cassette tape for a format I don’t actually own…

Ah yes, the humble DCC. I remember, as a kid, I picked up a copy of Q magazine from 1993, that had a huge article on DCC. I mainly got it because it had a free CD on the front. As I’d only picked up my first CD player the Christmas before, any type of cheap CD to expand my music library was always welcome. Though, as a snotty teenager, the articles went more in-depth than what I liked. I think I’d only stopped getting comics at that point. Still, I was interested to see if this format ever made it into the wild. It didn’t, DCC sank without a trace (at least in your everyday consumer spectrum anyway) and I never ever saw one for sale.

That is, until I bought the one above. the guy had three for sale, one unwrapped. He’d clearly, at the time, bought these by accident, thinking they were just standard cassette tapes. I like to think he’s been carrying these to boot sales every weekend since the 90s and this is the first time he’s sold one. Probably not though.

Fast forward a week. If I haven’t bored you already, the weekend was quiet. I didn’t actually go anywhere. Mainly because I couldn’t. My guts were in absolute tatters for 4 days. No idea what caused it, It was a slightly toned down version or what happened to me when I was about 17. I’ll not go into it, but trust me, if I needed to go to a fancy dress party, I could have swallowed some gravel and went as a shotgun. Not nice at all.

Tuesday was the day when I finally mustered up the courage to leave the house safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be splattering my jeans. I’d made it my resolution to visit every charity shop in Hartlepool. The first stop was The YMCA shop, where I picked up probably my 2nd best purchase of the day… “No Sound Without Silence” by The Script. Not the type of album I’d normally see myself go for, but when I was in Amsterdam a few years ago, it was the only CD that was played on the coach, and I ended up liking it. Not enough to pay any decent money for, but for 50p, I couldn’t go wrong. It also has the theme to “Mrs Brown’s Boys Da Movie” on it… Terible film, great theme. Sorry.

I travelled from one end of the town to the other. While I was waiting for the bus, I heard a young chav lass shout “Fuck off” to her child. The child was below full speaking age, and was happily gibbering away to his mother Her response… “Oh, yeah, yeah. I had one of those, but the wheels fell off”. I had to laugh.

Towards the end of the day, I headed to the town. In one of the charity shops that shall remain nameless. A lad was looking at some CDs, went to the counter with 3 CDs, but the manager saw he was holding 4 just a minute earlier. Unknown to her, he’d put one back, but it was too late. She’d asked to check in the bag he was carrying. Well. You should have heard it. Not from him, but his mother, who was elsewhere in the store.

“Are you the manager? What’s your head office number? I’ll be reporting this! Do you know how much I spend in here? You didn’t apologise for looking in there”

There were so many things wrong with her argument. Now I know a little about customer services, after being in a role like this, but at the end of a telephone.

Point number 1. You can report staff all you want to a head office. If they’re double checking to make sure that stock hasn’t been stolen, then they’re always going to side with the member of staff. That’s your job. Point number 2. Shops are shops. If you’re offended by someone doing their job, then fuck off. Don’t come back. Don’t buy products from them ever again. If you dropped down dead tomorrow, the charity won’t fold. They won’t be looking out for you, as they stand underneath a big “TO LET” sign with a key in the shutters. No, ther people will buy stuff.

I did feel sorry for the manager behind the counter. I just rolled my eyes, as the complaints echoed out of the store and down the street. It’s probably water off a ducks’ back, but still.

Sorry, I went off on more of a ran than I intended there. I just hate rude people. Anyway you’ll notice that the Script CD was only the 2nd best purchase of the day. I’m sure you’re dying to know the best….

A keyboard. Yes, one of those things that you type into. One of the stores had a plethora of keyboards dumped under the CDs. Now, these were dusty old things. It was clear to see that there was a nice Dell keyboard underneath all of the tat. It looked practically brand new, but with the dust, and a very small amount of key wear.

Now, some places state that keyboards have more bacteria on them than toilet seats. I’ve not looked into that statement in any great detail, but it’s always had me a little wary over 2nd hand keyboards, but at £1.75, this was too good to miss. the knife didn’t come with it, by the way, it was just a make-shift key puller.

It had occurred to me, while approacting the wrought iron gates and gravel driveway or Mercuryvapour Towers, that this keyboard was probably hiding something. Why was it practically unused? Off came the keys, aaaaand….

Oh holy Christ! What the fuck is that? My god, I’d just gotten over a stomach infection, it looked very much like I was on course for another one. I have no idea what this stuff was. These Dell keyboards have drain holes, so thankfully, whatever it was only got caught under the F keys. Out came the Cillit Bang. The smell coming from the muck was ungodly. At a guess, from the colour and the smell, I’d have to say it was vomit, but I’ll never know. After an hour of scrubbing / spraying / wiping down with antibacterial stuff., it came up looking absolutely brilliant, and I can confirm that it actually fully works, because I’ve been typing on it for the entirety of this post!

Another weekend, another radio rally!

Ahhh, radio rallies. A subject I’ve touched on briefly, yet can’t have touched on them enough, as everyone l mention them to, seems to look at me with some type of confusion etched on their faces. So, let’s start from the beginning.

I’ve mentioned before, Daddykins is a radio ham. No, that’s not some type of wireless pig, it’s a name given to someone who has an interest in amateur radio. For as long as I can remember, he’s been taking me to radio rallies, and I always enjoy them. There are basically huge places, filled with lots of stalls, selling radio, and sometimes computer goodies. I remember getting a load of ZX Spectrum tapes from one, when I was about 10, most of which got used as blank tapes to store other games on, as they weren’t very good..

Fast forward through the years, and, until recently, visits to radio rallies were few and far between, yet I always looked forward to them, sometimes planning them months in advance.

A few years ago, Daddykins and myself began attending the yearly BARAC rally in Spennymoor, a small town a few miles west of the lovely fishing village of Hartlepool. This was an annual event, usually talking place in the first week of December. We both enjoyed it. Daddykins would look for the radio stuff, and I’d spend my time rummaging through boxes of loose cables and circuit boards for something that looked vaguely interesting. Usually, it’d be a drive of some variety, whether it be CD, flash, or even floppy.

Years went by, and we have began to attend these a lot more regularly, and further afield. There was Newark last year, this year so far, we’ve been to Ripon, and today, Blackpool. Now, this held a bit more of an interest for me, as it was going to take place in the “Norbreck Castle” hotel…

Well, OK, the ” RBRECK C STLE HOTEL”. You probably won’t remember that I stayed here many years ago. I recall the out-of-date biscuits next to the kettle. You, however, may recall, however, that I did a video about a hairdryer, filmed in that very hotel many years ago…

Haaaa. fun times.

Anyway, back to the radio rally. Chris came along with us. He was also making the same return trip (he’s the one holding the camera in the above video), and we were both interested to see just how much renovation had happened to the place since we’d both checked out. The answer: hardly any. It still looked almost exactly the same. It was like travelling back in time 7 years. Anyway, we were not here to ridicule the decor, we were here to have a look at what vintage tat I could walk away with.

It was being held in the big exhibition centre they have there. This was the place where they held the “entertainment” when we were there, and could quite comfortably hold a few thousand people…

The ceiling lights had changed from mercury to LED over the years, however. Ahem.

It wasn’t long until I started rummaging through boxes. The sight of “Everything £1” caught my eye, as you’d expect it would. I started rummaging, and pulled out a little, nondescript beige box, with what looked like either a taser, or a dictaphone / recording device thing. It was £1, so it was either going to be broken, or something missing from it, such as the battery, but for less than the price of a bottle of coke (damn you sugar tax!), I wasn’t going to pass it up. I also pulled out an absolutely massive old external CD/DVD drive. This thing was such a beast that it took standard size DVD drives, and not the shitty little laptop drives. Also, at £1, I decided that the power supply alone would be worth that, even if the drive was completely shagged.

Chris almost had a coronary at the sight of these… and at 50p each, he picked both of them up…

It was around that time, that I mearly creamed by boxers at the sight of an old, yellowed Chicony keyboard, with some of the nicest switches I’d used for a long time. Unfortunately, it had the old style 5-pin AT connector, no windows keys, and the asking price was £40. Ever so clightly out of my price range, but seeing as I think this poor little keyboard is reaching the end of its life (or at least be relegated to the keyboard I use at work, or something), I’d have liked that to be my replacement. Never mind.

Just along from that, was something made me go weak at the knees, was the sight of a laserdisc player, in perfect nick, with some discs to go along with it. I didn’t even query the price of it, as I simply didn’t have the space for one, but it was the first time I saw one “in the wild”, as it were.

A few other bits and bobs were acquired (20 slimline CD cases for £1 for example), and it was over all too soon. Daddykins had gone back to the car, and we’d completed enough laps of the place to make Mo Farah look dizzy (He only does road races now, you know – Ed). Shut up.

I had a peer into my little beige box, and upon further investigation, it was indeed a dictaphone type thing. It looked in absolutely perfect nick. It was 8Gb too, and to my amazement, it powered on and recorded!

A test recording

Back in the box it went, for further examination when I got home. The way back was uneventful, except I managed to get a folder of a “Trainer tree”… around here they hang trainers from telephone wires. Up on t’moors, they grow them on trees…

Looks like it’s blossoming for the spring!

So, anyway, back home, and I examined this little recorder a little more. Here’s a photo of the device itself.

Everything appears to be in the box, except for the Micro USB cable, of which I have dozens, so absolutely no loss there. The headphones were still sealed, but they look cheap as hell.. I’d never heard of the make (Evistr?), and I’d expected it to be an Amazon / Won Hung Lo Special, and indeed it is, but it’s on there for £33ish. Not bad.

So, curiosity got the better of me, and I had to see if it had been used in the past. there were no files on it, except for the one I’d recorded above, so I opened the device in a hex editor. All of the sectors appear to have been used, so that would suggest there was something on there. A quick run through an undelete utility, and voila!

I’ve had a listen, and this definitely did belong to someone else in the past. It has someone singing for a couple of the files, and also two 3-hour long recordings of music, probably taken from a radio at the other side of the room, or something. All of these sound like they’re possibly Chinese.

Just a look at the waveform shows this probably isn’t a great device for making sonically accurate recordings…

I’m assuming these were taken with the built-in microphone. It has an external socket for a microphone too, so you never know, that might be better… judging by the quality of the headphones, I suspect not, but it’s worth a look.

Overall, a successful day out