Friday, January 30, 2009

Enigma Ciphering Machines From Yesterday

I found myself ciphering, working on a project to restore the audio from a few 1/4 inch tapes from the 1960s and two 78 rpm records from 1949. Unfortunately, there was not a handy, dandy Sony TC 580 (pic, pic 2). Long ago, tape machines offered 3 speeds - 1 7/8, 3 3/4, and 7 1/2 ips, or inches per second, meaning that's how far the tape would move across the head per second. The higher the ips, the better the quality. Top end machines also offered bi-directional recording and playback - which means, when the tape got filled up on the right take-up reel, you could play or record again on the same tape - in reverse direction. Well, while trying to de-cipher these tapes, all i had was a uni-directional Fostex mastering 2 track machine. Totally the wrong gear, especially since a lot of it was recorded at 3 3/4 ips. (The Fostex offered 7 1/2 and 15 ips. and just one direction). Was all lost? If we had to do this for an archive, we would have needed to get the right machine, but this job was just for fun. Quality control was not as much as an issue as being frugal in tough times. So - we used the Fostex. Most everything was played at double speed, and recorded digitally in an a/v workstation. Some of it was also, backwards and at double speed. Knowing that the speed is 2x, we know the amount of pitch shift needed to fix it. The answer is 12 semitones, or an octave. Think of a keyboard, there are twelve notes if you include the black and white keys. Each step is a semitone. It was a snap to pitch shift the material 12 semitones, and reverse it if you recorded it in reverse. Then the hard work of audio restoration began.

The same problem - wrong equipment, was there for the 78 rpm record project. All we had was a turntable with a top speed of 45 rpm. So - we played it at 45 rpm, and recorded the slow sounding blur into the a/v workstation. The question is, how many semitones do we need to increase it to correct for the slow 45 rpm speed??? The answer is pretty easy, but don't look yet if you want to cipher it yourself Jethro.

Think about it this way, and the answer is just too easy. If we had to adjust it to 90 rpm, meaning that is the proper speed of the record, we would just move it 12 semitones. So 90 rpm (2x speed) would equal 12 semitones. And so, 78 rpm / 90 rpm = x / 12 semitones. x = 10.4 semitones. And just to check out math, we know we must increase the playback rate by 1.733333333..etc times. (78 / 45). if 2x speed = 12 semitones, x speed = 6 semitones. And guess what, 1.733333 times 6 = 10.4 semitones. Woo Woo.

Just for kicks, I thought I'd include a sample. Here's a short snippet recorded off the tape, called chipmunks.mp3 - huh? what's that? Well, it is way too fast and backwards too. The original was recorded at a 3 3/4 (or 1 7/8 not sure) ips speed, and played at 7 1/2 ips which was recorded. Reverse the sample, and lower the pitch and you get this.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Newspaper Heyday Movies

We live in interesting times, and how we receive our information has changed in some respects, but in a lot of ways, nothing changes. It is different today, because TV, and to lesser extent radio, have without a doubt, supplanted the newspaper as the way We The People, get our information. It was not always so. (yes, we agree the internet killed the newspaper too, but the internet just piled on and hastened the newspaper's decline from glory).

About 50-75 years ago, newspapers were king. Most cities had 2 newspapers - one for one political side, and one for the other. It was a constant battle with high stakes - as more papers being sold, usually meant more votes, and the winner gets power that comes from controlling the use of the taxpayers money. The tide changed over the seasons, but the public was always being played, by one side with an agenda, or the other side with an agenda. News wasn't really news, it was mostly spin, like red meat they fed your own philosophical beliefs, and the sound bytes you liked became your talking points. Whether you watch MSNBC or Fox - the same game is being played today. If you don't believe this, check out this Frank Random re-mix, Depotism or Democracy. It's is edited for irony and universal uneasiness.

So, we thought there were some good lessons out there, in a bunch of very good newspaper heyday movies. Most folks would put Howard Hawks' His Girl Friday, starring Cary Grant and Rosiland Russell at the top of the list, but my vote goes to Frank Capra's Meet John Doe. The film offers wide open deceptive journalism, political intrigue, and the little guy, John Doe, getting put through the meat grinder. Barbara Stanwyck stars as the ambitious reporter, who compromises her ethics so she won't lose her job at the paper. Gary Cooper is brilliant as Mr. everybody, John Doe, a former baseball pitcher that injured his throwing arm. Next on the list - Nothing Sacred with Carole Lombard, Frederic March, and Billy Barty. Our final pick for newspaper related media is from a One Step Beyond episode called Where Are They? Here's the idea - what does a newspaper do, when the REAL story is just too bizarre to print for your readers? That's a good question - what would you do as a reporter?