Not a chance you can part with that VHS holding your high school Brigadoon performance, that mix tape from your first B.F., your mom’s Tina Turner records, or those boxes of old family photos. But you can part with the clutter they create.
We’ve found a slew of new gadgets and services that will fit your old analog stuff neatly onto a CD or hard drive. You’ll rescue your memories from oblivion–and free up some closet space.
Revive your records
Ion Audio’s LP Dock ($250, ion-audio.com) looks like a record player. But plug in your iPod or PC, and the turntable spins the tracks on your LPs into digital files and stores them on your MP3 player or computer. Rather have someone else do the work? Send your platters to the pros at Reclaim Media (reclaimmedia.com), who for about $10 per record will transfer your vinyl to MP3s or CDs and then mail back the whole shebang.
Convert your cassettes
Want “Let’s Get Physical” to get digital? Save your Olivia Newton-John tapes and your money with a DIY solution: Insert your cassette into any old tape player, plug one end of a stereo cable into its headphone jack, and plug the other end into the microphone jack on your laptop or desktop. Then hit play on the tape player and record in a free audio program, such as Audacity (download it at audacity.sourceforge.net) or GarageBand (standard equipment on most new Macs).
Preserve your pics
Snapshots can’t bring back fond memories when they’re stuffed in a Nine West box under your bed. Transfer photos, negatives, and slides into your computer with the Epson Perfection V500 scanner ($250, epson.com), which automatically corrects problems like scratches and restores colour to faded photos. (Bonus: It works as an all-purpose scanner, too.) Or hire ScanDigital (from 48 cents per photo, scandigital.com). They’ll save the results on a disc and post them to an online gallery so you can reminisce and share with family and friends at the click of a mouse. And yes, they mail your precious dinosaurs, er, originals back.
Make over your movies
If you’ve still got a VCR in storage or on your TV console (really?!), just connect the Pinnacle Video Transfer ($130, pinnaclesys.com)–a black box about the size of a deck of cards–to your VCR and your MP3 player or other hard drive. Press play on the VCR and record on the gadget and it starts converting your movies to MPEG-3-quality video (in non–geek speak: really freaking good). You can outsource this task, too, either by sending tapes to YesVideo (about $30/tape, yesvideo.com) or dropping them off at one of its partner stores, such as Costco or Walgreens.
Trade moldy media for new electronics
Send your old CDs and DVDs with the original cases and booklets to feedyourplayer.com’s South Carolina office, and they’ll put the collection’s perceived value toward an electronic item of your choice–from iPods to flatscreen TVs. You can get a shiny new 8 GB iPod Touch for 150 CDs.