Once upon a time, I could work with all types of technology, both old and new. I had a Sony Walkman, but I also knew how to thread the seemingly ancient reel-to-reel tape player in the college radio studio. In 1986, we did the layout for our college’s literary magazine on an Apple Macintosh, and I knew I had glimpsed the future. I remember the Internet before there was a World Wide Web, back when it was all text.
But somewhere along the way, technology has gotten out ahead of me, and in most cases, I’ve just let most technological developments leave me behind. In many cases, it pays not to be an early adapter. It’s better to let the developers work out all the bugs and kinks before I invest.
However, I often find myself overwhelmed by all the choices once we know that a particular technology is here to stay. Lately, it’s become clear to me that I need to pay more attention to the recent advances in recording technology.
I’ve only recently learned how to make recordings using the microphone and software included with my laptop. It’s easy enough, but I’m not happy with the way that the recordings sound. I wonder if there’s some technique that I’m missing, some way of talking into or at the laptop that would make my voice sound less tinny.
Here’s what I really want to know: at what point do I know for sure that I need to buy better technology?
If I just need to record a poem here and there for online journals that offer readers a chance to hear the poem, then maybe my laptop is fine. But then I wonder if having the better options in technology might open up new doors for me?
For example, would I play more with podcasts if I had better ways to make recordings? I used to work in college radio, and I miss it. I’m an NPR junkie from way back, and I imagine that creating a podcast series would help me feel like I’m working in a meaningful medium, a medium that until recently I thought was lost to me, once I graduated.
If I decide I need to invest in better technology, then I have another set of questions: what do I need to buy? Should I invest in top-of-the-line technology or do I just need whatever would be the cut above the basic equipment that comes with my computer?
And then, there’s a round of software questions. I know that software exists that will let me manipulate the recordings that I make. I can access some versions of this software free, from my school. But the last time I tried to do this, in 2006 or so, I found the software overwhelming. Do I really need to learn a new computer program? Or will most people be listening through inferior devices anyway, so it won’t be worth it to manufacture supreme sound quality?
I know I’m not the first person who has wrestled with these questions, but here, too, technology seems to be an equal mix of blessing and curse. There are lots of answers out there in the Internet realms. Who to trust? Globalization complicates the matter even further, because we now have many more choices than we once did, and many of them are affordable.
So, if you’re a poet who has wandered into the realms of audio production, and if you have some insights, it would be great to hear from you. What technology advice would you give to someone who’s not a complete novice, but nowhere near an expert?