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The range of contributors to The Digital Deli Online spans virtually every facet of the Golden Age Radio Collecting hobby: recordings, vintage radio equipment, vintage ephemera from the era, premium collectors, poster collectors, and nostalgia collectors.

This feature will provide as many tips, suggestions, best practices, and techniques as we can assemble, in an attempt to provide both seasoned collectors, and novices smarter, faster, more innovative, or simpler techniques to assist them in collecting, researching, preserving, and enjoying their Golden Age Radio era treasures. As a point of departure, we'll break down the first round of tips into the following areas:

Please feel free to contribute your own suggestions, tips, and best practices as well. Each of us has some special technique that we've either discovered on our own, or learned from other collectors.

Some of these suggestions, tips, and techniques will seem embarassingly obvious to the seasoned collectors, but many of them will be a revelation to both experienced collectors and novices alike.

  1. Use a news reader or stream capturing client for downloading recordings from News groups or Streaming accounts
  2. Use a comprehensive audio tag utility for sorting, renaming, retagging, or cataloguing your recordings
  3. Salvaging 'ruined' .mp3 recordings
  4. Be a good Downloading Citizen from public and private recording archives

  • Tip #1
    Use a news reader or stream capturing client for downloading recordings from News groups or Streaming accounts.

    Many popular commercial and shareware news readers provide the ability to sample the recording before, during, or while it's downloading. Why risk wasting limited downloading time or expense only to discover -- after they're downloaded -- that it's either a poorly encoded, mislabelled, or inaudible batch of recordings? 'Play before you pay'

  • Tip #2
    Use a comprehensive audio tag utility for sorting, renaming, retagging, or cataloguing your recordings

    This may seem more obvious to most of you, but having used a variety of these utilities over the years, I still find even more uses and benefits from these invaluable tools. Yes you can use iTunes, WinAmp, and even Windows Media Player to tag, rename or catalogue your recordings, but you'll find that many of these media player features run out of steam when you're attempting to rename, tag or catalogue a large number of episodes.

    You'll find batch renaming, retagging and cataloguing features in most of the stand-alone utilities expressly designed for this purpose. I find that iTunes has the most useful tagging and renaming features among the current batch of mainstream media players.

    In addition, if you utilize ID3 tagging -- and I strongly suggest that you do -- it's been my experience that ITunes has the most accurate ID3 tagging feature set of any of the popular, mainstream media players, including support for ID3 2.1 through 2.4 support and retagging, as necessary.

    Some of you who have discovered -- the hard way -- that Microsoft's new Media Player Versions 10.0 and 11.0 intentionally mangle earlier recorded ID3 tags, can find a measure of relief with iTunes. Windows Media Player -- Versions 9.0, 10.0 and 11.0 -- have already mangled many of the Golden Age Radio .mp3 recordings I've run through it. Out of desperation, I immediately ran the damaged tags through iTunes and successfully restored every one of them. iTunes definitely got it right this time.

  • Tip #3 -- or perhaps Tip #2.x?
    Salvaging 'ruined' .mp3 recordings.

    Be aware that when an .mp3 recording gets 'mangled' or appears corrupted, the source of the corruption is almost always the ID3 tag. As noted above, some mainstream media players currently available are not backward compatible with many of the codecs or tagging standards employed in earlier recorded or encoded .mp3 recordings. It's even possible to corrupt a recording's tag during the process of downloading it.

    All is not lost! Be aware that the tags employed by many popular codecs and encoding utilities are an integral element to the structure of the resulting recording. If the internal tag is misplaced within the encoding -- by as much as one bit position -- it can render the recording unplayable.

    As noted above, I find I can almost always run such a mangled .mp3 through iTunes and successfully restore the .mp3 to it's originally encoded condition.

  • Tip #4
    Be a good Downloading Citizen from public and private recording archives

    Online archives and collections may or may not be private sources, but whether public or private, they share one common limiting characteristic -- Bandwidth. Whether uploading or downloading, their servers are limited to the available bandwidth and connection 'slots' at any given moment of the day or night.

    How does this affect you? Here's a typical situation:
    You've found a wonderful collection of episodes, or even a complete show, that you simply don't have the time -- or patience -- to monitor as it downloads. So you start your download and either hit the hay, run an errand, or otherwise leave the computer to finish when it finishes. If the download finishes well before you return to the computer, you may find that you're still connected -- logged on -- to the download source when you return. No big deal, right?

    In many cases, the archive you've logged onto has a specific number of 'seats' or positions it can accommodate at any given time. When you remain logged onto that site, you may be preventing others from logging on to the site while your computer is simple idling until you return to the computer. This is aggravated by the 'keep connection alive' features that many popular downloading and FTP clients provide to the user. Even if your computer isn't really doing anything on the target site, the downloading or FTP client is sending 'keep alive' null transmissions to 'trick' the server on the receiving end into believing that you're still actively logged onto the site.

    How to prevent this and let others have their chance as well? Most downloading or FTP clients have, in addition to the 'keep alive' features, a 'log off at completion of download' feature. How does it work? At the completion of an extensive download, the downloading client 1.) Senses the download is complete, 2.) Ceases sending the 'keep alive' null transmissions, and 3.) Cleanly logs off that downloading session and awaits your next session initiation command.

    Be an informed 'Netizen -- and remind others to do the same. We all benefit that way.

  1. Free or low-cost tools for working with show/episode logs.
  2. Working with episode dates.
  3. Use a Perpetual Calendar to create a target list of episode dates.
  4. Use Text Files as placeholders and information keys.
  5. Use uniform abbreviations for Network Sources.
  6. Assemble and cross check at least THREE provenances for every researched recording in your collection whenever possible.
  • Tip #1
    Free or low-cost tools for working with show/episode logs.

    You don't have to be a database programmer to create program and episode logs of your Golden Age Radio recordings Of course, it helps, but there are a number of tools you may already have on your computer desktop than can make working with logs far more efficient, and certainly far more painlessly.

    At a minimum, you'll need a sorting capability, whether you use a word processor, spreadsheet, or database.
    You need the ability to sort the following fields: File name/Title, Episode Date, and Episode Number. This effectively rules out Microsoft's WordPad or Notepad. For PC Platform computers, many manufacturers bundle some version of Microsoft Works, any of the components of which contain a sorting feature. You may also find Sun's Star Office Suite bundled with your new computer. Both of these suites provide all the tools you'll need to efficiently catalog or log your shows and episodes

  • Tip #2
    Working with episode dates.

    Everyone who's been collecting Golden Age Radio recordings has encountered this problem: Date fields or dates in file names don't sort correctly in either file managers or 'explorer-type' computer interfaces.

    This is an often encountered, but poorly understood problem for collectors with no database or programming experience. Here's the problem:

    All of us were alerted to elements of this issue with the famous (or infamous?) 'Millennium bug' hype surrounding date fields rolling over to a new century. This is hardly that grave an issue, but it's definitely an irritating problem, especially when the date field of a file name is poorly constructed. Consider the following two dating systems:

    Julian date: Method of identifying successive days of the year without monthly notation, by numbering days sequentially from January 1, useful in some computer applications. Generally speaking, Julian dates number each day of the year from '0' to '365' so that January 20th, in the year 2005 would appear as 05020 or 2005020

    Gregorian Date:  The solar calendar now in general use, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582 AD to correct an error in the Julian calendar by suppressing 10 days, making Oct 5 be called Oct 15, and providing that only centenary years divisible by 400 should be leap years; it was adopted by Great Britain and the American colonies in 1752. There are several international notation standards for depicting the Gregorian Date. As examples, January 20th of 2005 could be variously represented as '01202005', '2005.01.20', '01-20-2005', '2005/01/20', '05/01/20', '20/01/2005', '01/20/05', or '05-01-20'.

    Ok, so they all look plausible -- or logical -- in one form or another, right? Perhaps, but not to a computing machine and it's digital logic. Think about it. In the Gregorian method, we have 12 months that may be 28 - 31 days in length. How to sort such combinations with digital logic?

    Those of us who collect ephemera and recordings from the Golden Age of Radio don't have to contend with century changes in working with dates. The material we deal with encompasses, for the most part, items dating between 1920 and the 1980's. This makes it far easier to deal with sorting any date fields during this period. The answer is simple. Use a date field constructed as in the following example:

    1941 or '41'
    September or '09'

    Why place the year first? This assumes that you want your file names to sort in commonly accepted chronological order. If, for example you placed the Month field first, you'd end up with all of your files sorted by month and day, but ONLY by month and day -- the year field would be placed randomly throughout the resulting sorted listing. Why? Default sorting functions are designed to sort from the first character in the field (or file name), through the last character in the field or file name (in actual practice, by default the algorithm sorts from the last character to the first, but you get the idea). If you're a programmer, you can certainly construct your own sorting algorithm to suit any sorting scheme you wish to devise, But if you're relying on the default sorting function of standard sorting utilities or databases, you'll be relying upon the 'first character through last character' sorting algorithm. Therefore, placing the year digits first in the date field is the only way to insure that any series of date fields or file names containing date field would be sorted chronologically

    Yes, you can certainly elect to use the entire year field, such as '1941' in the example, but why would you? File names for transfer to digital media are generally limited to 31 characters, after which many common recording media simply ignore the 32nd through nth characters of the file name. Why waste two of those characters on the century digits '19'. Everyone in the hobby understands that it's the 1900's, or 20th century. You gain nothing in utility by including the century characters -- and you gain two more characters to use for the title or name of the recording, image or data file.

    In conclusion, here's our recommended examples for constructing a filename for archiving purposes:

    '410922' for September 22, 1941

    For a recording:
    Ep. #
    The Title of The Episode
    For a an ephemera, print, or picture item:
    Item #
    The Name of The Item

    For our U.K. and some European collecting friends, while we recognize that it's common practice to construct the date field with the 'day' digits before the 'month' digits, if your collections will be offered to U.S. recipients, please recognize how confusing such date constructions can be, in situations where both day and month are "10" or less. Example:

    Is '410908' September 8th, 1941, or August 9th, 1941? Certainly in a list of 10 - 20 filenames or recordings, it eventually becomes apparent that the date fields are constructed with the day before the month, if that's the case, but in the case of onesy's and twosy's it can be extremely perplexing to determine the intended date.

  • Tip #3
    Use a Perpetual Calendar to create a target list of episode dates.

    Perpetual calendars are a valuable tool for many log preparation activities, like these:
    • Determine missing episodes or dates
    • Calculate scheduling changes in a range of dates when a last show or first show is announced
    • A 'sanity check' for a questionable or suspect date.
    • Correcting or readjusting sponsorship changes or network affiliations in a series or show
  • Tip #4
    Use Text Files as placeholders and information keys.

    Text files can be a very useful 'placeholder' for missing or suspect episodes in a collection. Construct the file name for the text file as you would the recordings. As a bonus, the text files can also contain clues, provenances, or research results to help you find or verify the missing episode. See the following example:

    The Adventures of Philip Marlowe

    Adv of Philip Marlowe 481024 005 The Heart Of Gold.mp3
    Adv of Philip Marlowe 481031 006 The Blue Burgonet.txt
    Adv of Philip Marlowe 481107 007 The Flaming Angel.txt
    Adv of Philip Marlowe 481114 008 The Silent Partner.txt
    Adv of Philip Marlowe 481121 009 The Perfect Secretary.txt
    Adv of Philip Marlowe 481121 010 The Hard Way Out.mp3

    Catalog the text files as you do the actual .mp3's and remove them as a missing episode becomes available.

  • Tip #5
    Use uniform abbreviations for Network Sources.

    Here's some suggested abbreviations for some of the more common network or originating sources for your Golden Age Radio Shows or Series:

    ABC American Broadcasting Company (ABC)

    ABCAU Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC)
    ABCBLUE American Broadcasting Company (ABC: 1943 - 1946)

    AFRS Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS)

    BBC British Broadcasting Company (BBC)
    CBC Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)

    CBS Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS)
    LIB Liberty Network

    MBS Mutual Broadcasting System (MBS)

    NBC National Broadcasting Company (NBC)
    NBCBLUE NBC 'Blue Network' (1927 - 1943)
    [RCA Originating Stations of the NBC Network]
    NBCGOLD NBC 'Gold Network' (1931 - 1933 at which time they transferred to the 'Orange Network')
    [West Coast NBC Affiliates KPO, KECA, KEX, KJR, and KGA]
    NBCOR NBC 'Orange Network' (1931 - 1943)
    [West Coast NBC Affiliates KGO, KFI, KGW, KOMO, and KHQ]
    NBCRED NBC 'Red Network' (1926 - 1987)
    [AT&T-Originating Stations of the NBC Network]
    NBCWHT NBC 'White Network' (1928 - 1937)
    [The Watchtower Network providing religious content and programming]

    SSA Springbok Radio, South Africa

    SYND Syndicated

  • Tip #6
    Assemble and cross check at least THREE provenances for every researched recording in your collection whenever possible.

    Ok, in the first place, what the heck is a 'provenance'? In the context of collecting Golden Age Radio recordings and ephemera, a provenance is the ownership or source history of a work. In many cases this history is not readily known for a recording or print item, unless there is a collector's annotation or audit trail associated with the information it yields. 'Ex-collection' indicates that the named person or source was a recent owner or published source. Let me restate this for emphasis. Provenances are without question the single most important element of any serious research activity.

    Yeah, I know. It's a mouthful. But here's the long and short of it. It's one matter to find an anecdotal or apocryphal reference for a log entry, episode date, title, or other detail of less widely known or supported recording, but to hang one's hat on only anecdotal references all too often simply perpetuates inaccurate information about a show or episode. It's no accident that in 'the good ole days' of responsible reporting, journalists consistently relied upon -- or demanded -- a 'three source' rule for nailing down the facts of a story before submitting it for publication.

    In my own experience, that rule has proven itself time and time again to be not only prudent, but in some cases, a life-saver in pursuing many of the more obscure trivia or facts necessary for an accurate cataloging of much of this Golden Age Radio material.

    One of my many 'back burner' projects is to assemble a 'provenance library' for every known complete Golden Age Radio show or series in circulation. It's an ambitious project, but the results it yields will be of inestimable value in standardizing the known, proven, and supported information regarding these shows.

    You don't have to be in the hobby for long to encounter a set of shows which are utterly inaccurately labeled, either externally or internally. In all fairness, we all recognize that no one would go to the trouble of intentionally mislabelling either an episode or an entire series, but we must also recognize that there's an awful lot of faulty or inaccurate anecdotal information in circulation regarding even the most popular and more common shows or series.

    So what qualifies as a provenance?

    • First person engineer or advertiser logs from the original recording studio, station, advertiser, or network are an excellent source.
    • Transcription labels from an original recording or copy.
    • Scripts from any existing episodes, even unaired episodes.
    • Institutional archives or collections are usually an excellent source as well.
    • The Library of Congress is one of the best sources for any of the material that has been donated to it.
    • Other reliable collector's logs or contemporaneous notes.
    • Newspaper clippings of the era, such as radio listings for each day.
Any three of these sources should support your research effort, such that you can commit the resulting data to your cataloging effort. At the very least, you've assembled an accurate audit trail from which to back track and correct, as necessary, any of the derivative sources you relied upon for your earlier conclusions.

  1. Weigh the pros and cons for yourself
  2. If you choose to tag, experiment with the tagging options
  • Tip #1
    Weigh the pros and cons for yourself.

    The issue of whether or not to internally tag your collection is one of the little tempests in a teapot surrounding the hobby. Here are some of the arguments against -- and myths about -- tagging:

    1.) Tagged recordings, once traded, are often simply wiped clean by the recipient anyway, so why bother?
    2.) Tagging is time consuming.
    3.) There are no widely accepted standards for tagging at present
    4.) ID3V1 and 2 tag fields are far too limited as currently provided in the evolving standard.
    5.) Improperly tagging a recording, or entering data that exceeds a tags limitations can render the recording unplayable.

    And giving equal time, here are the pros, and clarifications regarding tagging:

    1.) Tagged recordings can be lifesavers should the existing filename be rendered unusable, questionable or inaccurate.
    2.) The expanded ID3V2.3/4 specification provides dramatically increased information fields and categories for the Golden Age Radio collector.
    3.) The more that tagging standards are actually employed, the better the existing standards will evolve.
    4.) State of the art operating systems can be customized to show the data within the internal tags, providing a wealth of available information via the explorer-type interfaces which are becoming the standard of the future.
    5.) More and more tagging utilities are showing up both commercially and as freeware. There are enough alternative choices to satisfy the needs of almost any collector.

  • Tip #2
    If you choose to tag, experiment with the tagging options until you become comfortable with a tagging system or methodology to which you can comfortably commit your entire collection.

    There are more than 80 fields available in the ID3V2.4 specification. More than enough fields to satisty the needs of any Golden Age Radio collector. But for some, the abundance of choices may require some experimentation before you're prepared to commit either an entire set or collection to the method you settle on.

    Try a few alternative approaches, playing them in your media players of choice to determine whether they display the information fields you've elected to populate the way you like to see them. Live with those experiments for a few weeks if necessary, until you're comfortable enough with your choices to commit your collection to the system you develop.

    Use the larger 'memo' fields in the ID3V2.3 or ID3V2.4 specification to recorded all of the key details of the recording. These fields can be lifesavers if you make a mistake in structuring one or more of the standard fields in the tag. You can then reconstruct the basic key data fields from the data you've preserved in one of the available memo fields.

  1. Don't be pound-foolish with CD/DVD Labels.
  2. Use only approved or recommended, name-brand markers to annotate CD/DVD label surfaces.
  3. Take a look at the Epson line of CD Label printers

  • Tip #1
    Don't be pound-foolish with CD/DVD Labels.

    There are any number of sources of CD and DVD labels and labeling systems. They vary widely in quality and reliability as well. Unfortunately, cheap, bulk-purchased CD labels can often do more harm than good. Be aware that the quality adhesives and paper uniformity that come with higher grade labels come at a price. As with almost every commodity, you tend to get what you pay for. But is it worth saving a few cents on each label to risk either damaging a CD or DVD with either poor adhesives or poorly milled paper that results in vibrations that can foreshorten a CD/DVD player's life usable life?

    If you get a deal you can't refuse on a bulk quantity of name-brand labels, by all means take advantage of it. In the current economy such promotions and discounts are becoming more common. They're worth waiting for and searching for. Settle for no-name or counterfeit labels at your own peril.

  • Tip #2
    Use only approved or recommended, name-brand markers to annotate CD/DVD label surfaces.

    You should be looking for only quick drying, semi-permanent, thin tipped markers to annotate either the bare surface of a CD/DVD or CD/DVD label.

    You may have heard of special techniques for either increasing the storage capacity of a CD, or marking techniques which permit defeating the copy protection burned into certain pre-recorded CD's. Though intriguing possibilities as little as two years ago, such practices make no further economic sense, given the current pricing for bulk, name-brand CD-R's and DVD+/-R's. It's simply no longer practical to risk either damaging your CD Recorder or media employing such practices.

    Marker 'no-no's:

    • Do NOT use conventional 'Marks-a-lot' wide nib markers. They're the wrong composition for CD or CD label surfaces and their solvents bleed into the surface of most paper labels and compromise the underlying adhesive.
    • Do NOT use pencils to mark CDs or DVDs. The graphite can collect in both the laser lens and bearing surfaces of the drive motor of your CD drives or recorders
    • Do NOT use 'white board' markers. The dust they create as they deteriorate on the surface of the CD or DVD can foul both the laser lens and drive bearing surfaces.
    • Do NOT use the cutesy metallic fine-tip markers. The metal dust flakes that accumulate as they dry tend to foul the laser lens, and the solvent used to suspend the metallic dust in the ink, distributes unevenly on the surface of a CD or DVD creating counter-productive vibrations.

  • Tip #3
    Take a look at the Epson line of CD Label printers.

    These relatively new printers offer several benefits over traditional CD/DVD labeling methods:

    • Uniform distributed weight across the entire surface of the CD or DVD.
    • No risk of adhesive damage
    • A more professional, 'finished' appearance
    • Less handling during the labeling process

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Click to Play The Jack Benny Show #733, 'Mother's Day Gags', from May 14, 1950

The Jack Benny Show #733, 'Mother's Day Gags', from May 14, 1950