by Richard Porter
The master recording is made on a Friday evening, or midweek in the case of the magazine, and left in a secure location for one of our engineers who is in charge of the copying and distribution. This is done at our "copying centre" which is in fact little more than a cupboard equipped with a pair of flash drive replicators and a table. The flash drives and postal wallets have already been prepared by the Thursday Team.
One copier is used; the second is a standby. The copier has slots for one master drive and 15 copy drives. After loading the master and copy drives the process is initiated by pressing one button. The copier erases the copy drives, copies the master recording onto them and verifies that the recording has been copied correctly. If an error is detected a red LED comes on under the offending drive. When copying is complete a green LED is illuminated. Any drives that fail are retried in different slots. If they fail a second time they are discarded.
A player is available so that random drives can be checked. The master drive can be checked to ensure that it is for the correct date.
The copied drives are inserted into the wallets. We use purple wallets for the weekly programmes so that the Royal Mail can easily recognise our ones. The magazine drives go out in red wallets.
If a listener has failed to return our drives then there will be a yellow reminder slip with the wallet and this is secured to the drive with an elastic band. We hope that this will alert the listener to the problem and if necessary he or she will get a sighted person to read the note. No further drives will then be sent unless the missing ones are returned but a further check will be made by personal contact.
The wallets are placed into a mail bag for delivery to the Royal Mail delivery office. The Thursday Team will have separated out the wallets which go outside the town, and these are banded and placed on top of the sack. These wallets need to be sent to the main sorting office, but the bulk of the wallets can be delivered locally.
After use the master drive is returned to the librarian in a yellow wallet. We have a set of 20 master drives which are used in rotation and reformatted before being returned to the equipment cases. It is important to retain recordings for a number of years in case there is any dispute such as an allegation of libel. Of course the Association is insured against such eventualities.
A new feature in 2006 was the online digital version of the (then) tape which was accessible via the Listen Online page. An MP3 transcription of the newstape was made and uploaded to a special area on the Maidenhead Advertiser web site. This was a single file containing both sides of the tape including all the introductions and turn-over instructions. A corresponding MP3 URL (M3U) file was created on this site and links to both files were added to the Listen Online page. A link to the MP3 file was created automatically on the Advertiser site. The transcription could be streamed in real time or downloaded as a podcast and listened to offline using a PC or MP3 player.
Since went digital the individual tracks and playlist are uploaded inside a fresh directory for each week. The playlist is also available on our web site. The current monthly magazine and its playlist are also held on our site.
Processing the Returned Drives
The returned wallets are delivered to us by the Royal Mail and both drives and wallets are made ready for the next copying session by the Thursday Team. This is a team of two people working on a roster.
The wallets are emptied and any enclosed notes are read. These may contain comments on the drives or may report damaged or unplayable drives. Suspect drives are put on one side for investigation and the good ones are put in a box for reuse.
The address labels are turned over to show the listener's address, and the drive can then be logged in the register. This is a manual process but the register forms are produced by computer. Each listener has a set of four labels. If after logging all the returned drives the register shows that a drive is outstanding another label is inserted into a new wallet. If this is the last label for the listener a yellow reminder card is placed in the wallet. This will be attached to the drive with an elastic band to remind the listener that he or she will not receive any more drives until some are returned.
We may have been notified that a listener no longer requires the service or has moved away or died. This will be noted on the register and the labels withdrawn.
The labelled wallets are placed in a box ready to be used by the Saturday team.
Open the link on each image to see a larger version. (Photos: R. Porter)
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Last updated 31st March, 2018