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Re: Portadisc again

Subject: Re: Portadisc again
From: Walter Knapp <>
Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2003 18:21:58 -0400
Jeremy Minns wrote:

> My Portadisc performed well on its first trip into the boondocks. There
> were a few problems which might interest prospective purchasers of this
> recorder. These were:

> 1.      The power consumpt is horrendous and in a place with precarious
> generating facilities becomes a major problem. The Palmer=ED lodge had on=
ly a
> small Honda generator, normally used once a day to run a liquidizer, but =
> had to run six hours a day to keep my Portadisc in batteries. I realise m=
> style of usage is idiosyncratic (and probably causes disapproval among so=
> members of the list). A good example is when I recorded what was possibly=
> rare Attila (Citron-bellied A. citriniventris) in the 40 m high canopy. I=

> have no  recording of this species and know of none. If I had had my
> cassette recorder with me I would have played back to the bird until I
> finally saw and identified it. This might have taken an hour and was just=

> not on with the Portadisc with batteries severely rationed.

With the correct chargers, you could charge multiple sets in less than
two hours. You would have to carry a number of chargers. The chargers
I'm thinking about will run off a automobile battery, just as fast.

I'll not comment on playback, especially running long playbacks like
that. But I've noted off and on that the Portadisc is a recordist's
machine. It's playback capabilities are rather mundane. Buying a
Portadisc for use as a playback machine is spending too much, a cheap
walkman will do playback better.

In any case, if I was doing very much playback I'd probably use a
different machine. You don't want your record machine to be busy playing
back when your target bird finally calls. You want the record machine to
be ready to go.

If you think the Portadisc is horrendous for batteries, try some of the
older technology. Reel - Reel, etc. It's all relative. I do not think
the Portadisc is horrendous for batteries. But I use it for recording.

> 2.      An irritating feature is that when one hits Play, the recorder
> starts at Track 001. If you want to hear the last track (or - sorry! - us=
> it for playback) you have to press Play, Pause and then the AMS  |<< butt=
> several times (an indeterminate number) to wrap round to the final track.=

> To hit the right buttons I have to put on my specs. These were usually
> steamed up and my shirt too wet to dry them. A hassle.

You can get to the final track from the first with only one AMS jump.
Just jump backwards instead of forward. It's a loop.

I agree on it's not remembering which track you played last. It would be
much better if it remembered that.

> 3.      Say one has a pre-recorded MD with 200 tracks and one needs to
> listen to Track 100 to confirm an ID. In stop mode, you press AMS >>| til=
> you get to Track 100. If you then press Play, fine but if you press Pause=

> you go back to Track 001 and have to start all over again.

Mine does not behave this way. Pause during play and AMS goes from that
track either forward or backward, it only reverts to track 001 if you
hit stop.

Again, using playback with your recording machine is not the way to go.
And if you bought the Portadisc just for playback you should have bought
one of the walkman instead.

> 4.      When entering details of the recordings into my data base at home=
> need to know the recorded time for each track. For some reason pressing t=
> Display button three times doesn't always work. I've just done this and t=
> date and time shown are today's, not that of the recording. If one moves=

> forward a track and then back it usually comes right.

It get's it correct if you are in play pause. The same mode where it
actually knows what track it's currently at. If not playing it's in a
idle mode and gives you the current date and info about the disk as a
whole, i.e. the all important remaining time on disk reading.

> It's strange that the software seems rather unpredictable.

Like all software, it's very predictable, just does exactly what the
programmer wrote. Which may not be what you think he should have written.

I get actual length of my recording tracks off what arrives in my
computer, not from the Portadisc. Though it's not a very important
number until the track is edited into final format. I am aware of the
reading as I record, making sure I record enough, and it gives accurate
info there. And time of day and date were hand written on the field card
at the time of recording. Along with the all important GPS reading that
can only be gotten there. I highly recommend using a field log of some
kind, cards, notebook or whatever, doing it after you get back depends
on memory too much.

I think some of these problems of yours have to do with linear thinking
as in the way cassette or dat behave. Random access digital is a bit
different as there is no absolute tape position per se. The Portadisc is
random access, but was built for folks who still think linear, i.e. the
ENG folks who are just moving from cassette. It's implementation of
playback could have been better.

And note the success, it worked while two other recorders did not. (for
whatever reason) It's easy to grump, but it helps to maintain
perspective. It's been a very reliable field recorder for me.



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