"Madame, bear in mind That princes govern all things--save the wind." -Victor Hugo, The Infanta's Rose

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I want this cool gizmo!

This will no doubt have very little interest or meaning to anyone who has never been an audio journalist or reporter, but I'm going ga-ga over this product. It's the HHB Flashmic, a professional-quality microphone with an integrated digital recorder. To put this in perspective, consider that long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for a radio station where in addition to my disc jockey duties, for several hours a day I was also a fresh-faced gung-ho "cub" news reporter. Yes, our station manager was really that cheap. Anyway, an important part of my job was to go out and get actualities (more commonly known as "sound bites") to spice up our station's otherwise droll reading of the day's news stories. It might be a simple comment or statement from someone newsworthy, a man-in-the-street reaction to some event, or perhaps a full-blown interview with a local politician or celebrity. In any case, it required packing a heavy and complex assortment of electronic equipment including a cassette tape recorder, spare cassettes, a microphone, headphones, several sets of batteries, and a variety of cables. The possibility that any of these items might malfunction and ruin the interview was huge: a wire could break inside a connector, the cassette used in the recorder could be bad, the batteries could crap out, etc. And then there was the old standby, "operator error". I once did an entire 20-minute interview with a local marine expert on the health effects of Florida's notorious "red tides", and neglected to push the "record" button on the tape deck. Duh.

Worse yet, if something did go wrong, it wasn't usually discovered until back at the station when the intrepid reporter begins to edit the tape looking for that one, succinct, pithy 10-second comment to be used later in the station's newscast. When the News Director asks "so, whaddya got?" and you proudly press the "play" button to hear nothing but a loud buzzing sound, or nothing at all, this is the time when an alternate career in the fast-food or waste management industries begins to seem like a fairly good possibility.

Having suffered this ignobility, this gizmo is pretty darn appealing to me. (The fact that I no longer am a news reporter is irrelevant; I still think it's cool.) The recorder part is built into the microphone itself -- no tape, or cables, or other bulky apparatus to lug around. Simply whip the mic out of your pocket, press one button, and flawlessly capture up to six hours of sound in its full digital glory. Even better, all sorts of future improvements could be implemented: the ability to transmit the audio over an 802.11 wireless network, for example, would allow broadcasters to easily send audio from remote locations without using long cables and expensive microwave relay links. I salivate over these possibilities the way some people do over a juicy steak, which should remove any remaining doubt that anyone may have concerning my geekiness.

Now if they could only do something about the "operator error" part.

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