For the record…

Was communication technology better in the 1980s?

I’ve started doing some interviews for my PhD study. The plan is to speak to experienced songwriters about process, goals and challenges relating to collaborative songwriting. Trouble is, some of these people do five or six collaborations per week, almost all in London, so it’s kind of difficult to find a slot when we’re both available. Being a remote-working fan and general Internet evangelist, I’ve decided that when meeting up isn’t possible I might still be able to do the interviews by phone. I’m getting all the interviews transcribed as eventual appendices to the PhD, and had found what looks like a decent online transcription service. UK Transcription offers transcriptions of digital audio files, so I’ve uploaded an MP3 of the first interview (with Jez Ashurst) and await an MS Word file next week.

Then it occurred to me – how, technically, do you record a phone conversation? I used to know how in the 80s – some of the old mini-cassette based answerphones had a record button. But in an all-digital, iPhoned and Voicemailed world, is it even possible?

I called some mates and various work colleagues including the University’s IT dept, but no-one seemed to have a simple answer. So here’s my slightly tortuous workaround – if anyone has any better (Mac-based) methods, let me know.

  • Do the call via Skype phone, buying Skype credits so I can call regular landlines and a headset to keep the audio file as high-quality as possible.
  • Use Audio Hijack to extract the audio stream from the Skype conversation.
  • Convert the AH file into an MP3 and upload it to the transcription service.

There is a plug-in for Skype that seems to do the same thing called Call Recorder, but that’s another $20, and I’ve already paid the shareware fee for Audio Hijack. Here’s hoping it all works out…


  1. Hi Joe – greetings!
    A simple solution is to attach a suction-cup microphone [about ten quid or so] to your standard telephone handset.
    The mini jack from it can be plugged in to a Marantz digital recorder, which will record the two-way conversation, to its flash memory card as an mp3 file. The Marantz has a USB port to transfer the file to your mac/pc. I’ll bring a standard Marantz 660 on Tuesday… Cheers.

  2. Joe

    You can usually use a voice recorder on the phone directly. So for example AndRecorder records calls on my Android phone. I believe you can record outgoing calls on the iphone with the standard voice recorder.

    Another way is to use a web-based conference call service that can record calls.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: