23rd January

Above is the microphone I bought on ebay last week. It’s a vintage stereo microphone made by Teac for use with their reel to reel tape recorders. It was delivered to work last Friday and I tested it by plugging it into my mixing desk and once I’d realised it needed a battery it worked well.

So on Saturday night I thought I’d try and record something with it. As you can see the cable has quarter inch jacks on the end of it so I found some adaptors to convert it to 3.5mm stereo via phono connectors. However when I plugged it into my minidisc player I just kept getting a loud crashing noise which sounded like there was a problem with the cable. I tried taping up the connectors but the same thing happened. So I gave up – especially as I was trying to do this in the dark!

So I brought it to work today and plugged it into the mixer again – and it worked perfectly. I tried to replicate the noise but to no avail. So I got out the adaptors and tried with the minidisc again – same problem. However after playing about with it for a while I think I know what’s wrong. The manual describes the quarter inch jacks as phone plugs which dates them but would suggest that maybe the design is slightly different to the ones in the adaptor – they do have a very slack fit in there whereas the sockets in the mixer give a nice firm fit. Luckily for me there was an adaptor with the microphone which had 2 phone sockets to 5 pin din (now there’s a blast from the past) and the fit is good. I think I may have to remove the 5 pin din connector and replace it with a stereo minijack.

I ended up working late and driving home listened to a program on Radio 4 about attempts to locate mass graves at the Treblinka death camp in Poland. Unlike Auschwitz the camp at Treblinka was destroyed by the Nazi’s after an uprising by the Sonderkommandos (Slave labourers) at the camp. The mass graves have never been found as the bodies were dug up and burnt by the Nazi’s in an attempt to hide the holocaust as the war started to slip from them. Jewish tradition also forbids disturbing the dead so it is only recently that non-evasive techniques have been used.

There was an interview with one of the few remaining survivors of the death camp who told how women would hide their babies under piles of clothes in a desperate attempt to save them as they were ushered into the gas chambers. He also told how the Nazi’s would order them to kill the babies once they’d been discovered. Additionally they described the process used for burning thousands of bodies at the same time.

It reminded me of a visit to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany during a family holiday when i was younger. My father had been born just before the war so had grown up during and in the years immediately after WWII giving him an interest in what had happened. The thing I remember most about the visit was that as we got out of the car and walked towards the gates with the infamous Arbeit macht frei inscription mu mum pointed out that we had left the camera in the car. My father retorted “why on earth would we want to take pictures of somewhere like this” – which I guess is a valid point.

I remember we saw the gas chamber and crematorium at the camp although, as I now understand it, it is disputed as to how many, if any, died in the gas chambers at Dachau – most of the mass killings having taken place in the camps to the east in Poland. However it is recognised that around 32,000 people did die at the camp mostly from disease, starvation and suicide.

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