What I can transfer 3: Standards-conversion, videodiscs and archive computer media


Until digital took over, there were three analogue video standards in use around the world – PAL (UK, all of Europe except ex-Soviet territories, Australasia, parts of Africa/Middle East and China), SECAM (France, other parts of Africa/Middle East and Eastern Europe) and NTSC (Korea, Japan and North America). I can handle material of all such standards on VHS, Betamax, U-Matic and DV. Under most circumstances, SECAM/PAL material would be transferred to PAL (576i) DVD, and NTSC material to NTSC (480i) DVD.

However, I can also convert between NTSC and PAL with an ex-broadcast standards converter that, when new, sold for more than the price of a typical semi-detached house in South-Eastern England! It’s capable of excellent results, with none of the resolution loss or motion judder you get from software or cheap hardware conversion. As a result, I can make an NTSC disc from a PAL tape or a PAL disc from a NTSC tape! I can also transfer PAL or NTSC laserdiscs with analogue/digital sound (if their content isn’t available elsewhere!) to DVD. Currently, I’m investigating how to extract a 5.1 DTS or Dolby Digital soundtrack (as found on some later NTSV laserdiscs) and multiplex that with video for DVDs. Those with long memories might remember the CED videodisc; I can transfer PAL variants to DVD too.


Nothing moves as fast as the world of computers. A problem many of us face is discovering that a replacement PC lacks a floppy disc drive and thus the means of importing archive work files. Vintage floppy and hard disc drives (e.g., those with MFM, SCSI and IDE interfaces) cannot be connected to newer machines. Then there are the older machines (such as that one-time education staple the BBC Micro, CP/M office computers and advanced home machines like the Amiga and ST).

For this reason, I maintain a stable of old computers, ranging from a late-70s Exidy Sorcerer to Apple PowerMacs. Using techniques like terminal-emulation, the data can be transferred from the older format/machine to a PC and thus to more modern media like SD cards. A large number of 3.5in. and 5.25in. floppy drives are also kept; some are better at reading certain discs than others. Floppies do seem to deteriorate with age far more than audio/video tape – or for that matter hard disk drives (on which subject, I have had a high degree of success rescuing valuable data from these).


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