Who invented the electret (condenser) microphone?

Dr West, I presume. How do I know it? Kareem told me. That Kareem. The Basketball Kareem. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. In his blog. No kidding. Quoth Kareem: “In 1962, Dr. [James] West and his partner Gerhard Sessler invented the electret microphone used in almost 90% of all microphones built today — over 1 billion a year.”

Electret (also called “condenser”) microphones are the type generally used in lavalier (or lapel) microphones. (Hello every TV anchor and guest in recent history. How do we hear you? It’s electret!) Electret mics are used in all mini-sized microphones.

I love how I came to learn of Dr. West, electret mic’s co-inventor. Though I have passing awareness (heh. pun unintended) of Pro Basketball, and have heard the name of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and I read a local (L.A.)  blog by Tony Pierce, who became the blog editor at the L.A. Times, and though I saw an announcement that he got Kareem to start blogging, I had no idea. I yawned, oh, it’s a sports blog. Whatever. Didn’t even click ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 25, 2008 in • AudioAudio: Hardware
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Valentines from hearts now stilled

Love is stronger than death. It’s still not too late to talk Valentine’s Day, is it? Erika Hayasaki wrote a lovely story that the LA Times ran on Feb 14th, about a cemetery tour that focused on love stories. With a little research, Gwen Kaminski, who works at Laurel Hill cemetery in Philadelphia, found that the dead do tell tales. Well, okay, she found the tales and she told them. In addition to being a nice read, finding this story in the LA Times is a continuation of my theme of people I know in news stories last week.

I found the paper and read the story at a local lunch joint on Valentine’s Day. I kept wondering how an L.A.-based paper was covering a story based in Philadelphia. At the end, I noticed the byline (didn’t see it at the beginning)—Erika Hayasaki. Erika used to volunteer with WriteGirl (a nonprofit mentoring program that pairs women writers with teenage girls; I, too, am a volunteer)—until her employer, the Los Angeles Times, transferred her to their New York City bureau. Aha!. In fact, I’ve recorded an interview with Erika on the art of interviewing that I need to process and post in my start-it-up-again-podcast for this site. I’ll consider myself nudged.

Love. Cemeteries. There’s ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 19, 2008 in • Personal History
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Digital Storytelling Blog Carnival #2 is posted

Get thee to it, right here. It’s a once-a-month (midmonth) carnival, Submit to the carnival at this link. Thanks to Mathew (“Mr. Needleman”), the carnival host, who left a comment here to let me know.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • Digital Storytelling
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Highschoolers and historical society combine effort to preserve history of blacks in Mesa, AZ

This is so cool. This Mesa, Arizona oral history project is a cooperative effort of Westwood High School and the Mesa Historical Society. Why is it cool? Because I know Sarah Moorehead, who’s named in the article. She’s the chairwoman of the oral history committee for the historical society. All the interviewees live in the Escobedo housing project, which was originally built to house WW2 soldiers, and then later became a public housing project. The city-owned property will be sold, and residents will move. But first, their stories and memories of the place will be preserved.

Here’s what Sarah Moorehead has to say about the oral history project:

Now that the city housing is closing, Moorehead said it’s become more urgent to preserve its history, because departing residents are taking their memories with them.

“When you have current history, there’s a limited number of ways to really save that history. Personal experiences are a very important part of that,” she said.

So often, documented city history focuses on leaders, often white males.

“But they have little to say about the average person and what the everyday life of an average person was like,” she said. “Our society is so much more than what our political leaders are doing.”

Other coolness:

...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 14, 2008 in • Oral history in the news
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Grammy goes to math-expert audio restorer

The recording was a bootlegged Woodie Guthrie live concert. 1949. Original format is something called a wire recording – which predates widespread use of the magnetic tape recorder. Getting a 50+ year old format to playback while making a recording off it was quite an effort. The Woody Guthrie Live Wire album won a Grammy was for “Best Historical Album” – the mathematics involved was to use ambient noise in the recording to re-set the tempo after portions were stretched and broken.

Shortly after September 11, 2001, a small, heavy package wrapped in brown paper arrived in the mail at the Woody Guthrie Archives in New York City. Inside was a mess of wires.

Guthrie’s daughter Nora eventually figured out that the suspicious package wasn’t a bomb, but rather a recording of her father on a device that predated magnetic tape. After a year of searching, she managed to track down someone with the equipment to play it.

What she finally heard was a bootleg recording of her father singing a live performance in 1949. It was the first time she had ever heard him perform in front of a live audience. He had developed Huntington’s chorea and stopped performing when she was a ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 13, 2008 in • AudioRestoration
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A slave-trading story from the deep north

Friday’s episode of The Story, a public radio show about, well, stories and storytelling, is devoted to Katrina Browne’s family story. She discovered that her family –The DeWolfes from Bristol, Rhode Island– had been the largest slave trading family in the history of the U.S.

40 minutes of the hour-long show is a conversation with Katrina and Dick Gordon (The Story‘s host) about what Katrina did in response: visit the locations where the slave trade took place—Rhode Island, Ghana, Cuba. She invited members of the extended family to go, and 9 accepted. It’s a spell-binding listen.

Browne (along with Alla Kovgan and Jude Ray) made a documentary film from the trip—Traces of the Trade, which was just premiered at Sundance and will be shown on PBS’s P.O.V. this summer. (The timing of the film release is significant; it coincides with the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slave tradiding.) A relative, Thomas DeWolf, went on that trip and wrote his ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 12, 2008 in • BooksDocumentary Films
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Schenectady, NY: Feb 21 Intro to Oral History + Folklore

Schenectady Gazette: Feb 21, 2pm (Thurs) at the Schenectady County Historical Society, there’ll be a presentation on how to conduct oral histories. The presenter is Ellen McHale, executive director of the Folklore Society, located in Schenectady. The Folklore Society participates in the Veterans History Project, too. Oh, and she’s taught workshops at the Erie Museum, Apple. (tee hee!) Small world.

I’m very stoked to see this Schenectady mention. My Mom grew up in Schenectady; her parents both worked at the General Electric Co. I’d been aware of the Schenectady Museum (lots of GE archives there, including some of my grandfather’s papers), and I’ve seen the Schenectady History site run, in part, by the library.

Thanks to this story, I’ve found a couple of new, Schenectady-related links:

Folklore Society. Man oh man, their links page is mighty rich.
Schenectady County Historical Society

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 11, 2008 in • Do it: Learn HowOral history in the news
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SoCal Genealogy Jamboree has a blog

GenealogyJamboree.blogspot.com. I always want to call it an Expo, for some reason.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 10, 2008 in • Links
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Creating Memories Using Maps

A blog called Very Spatial links to a number of sources for using maps to create (or preserve) memories. An old post here was one destination, but the others in the post are worth a peek. Did you know the USGS has a Maps and Genealogy page?

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • MemorabiliaPersonal History
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For Your Consideration

“And the nominees for Best Family History Post are….” In keeping with the ending writer’s strike and the fact that the Academy Awards show must (and will) go on, the current call for entries for the Carnival of Genealogy is on the theme of Awards for Family History/Genealogy posts for 2007 (and the first 6 weeks of 2008). I’ve culled though my site archives, called in favors from dress designers and stylists, and am ready to walk the red carpet. Here, for your consideration, are nominees for awards of outstanding achievement in Family History and Genealogy weblog posting.

The Red Carpet. I’ve walked a red carpet once. No lie. The event was a US Premiere of a film for AFI Film festival. It was held (wait for it) in Beverly Hills at AMPAS, the American Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The Oscars place. On the sidewalk outside, there it was: red carpet. And velvet ropes along either side. I saw them, and gulped. My friend urged me hold my head up high,  smile, and walk with confidence.  I did. The paparazzi ignored us plebes, though. I also had a brush with a red carpet and awards ceremony almost exactly a year ago. A high-school friend was nominated for a Grammy, so I accompanied her to the Grammy Special Awards and Reception. Roped off red carpet ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • General
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Spirit Lake, Idaho Oral History Project

Oral History training February 20th as part of effort to complete an oral history project for the Spirit Lake Centennial Celebration. The link leads to fellow blogger Miriam at Ancestories; she’s got all the details.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 09, 2008 in • Do it: Learn HowOral History Projects
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Nat’l Museum of African American History and Culture

Natl Museum of African American History and Culture - Sojourner Truth NMAAHC launches an online museum before its physical museum is constructed. Sponsored by the Smithsonian, the site hosts online holdings from its own archives and includes a Memory Book where people who to tell their own stories (mostly text-based) and submit images may do so. [via WRT] The virtual museum has lots and lots to explore.

The site makes prominent use of tags. So the Sojourner Truth entry, for example, is tagged women’s rights, abolition, activism, autobiography. The flash-based navigation widget toward the top of the page (or in a larger, separate window) allows you to explore different connections, from moments in history to topics to persons. You can follow threads that connect one to the next. With each click, the navigation widget loads up a new page and redraws new connections.

The virtual museum has ties to StoryCorps. There a page with 45 audio excerpts of StoryCorps Griot interviews. Go. Click. Listen.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on in • Online Oral History CollectionsPersonal HistoryStoryCorps
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Hope Dies Last

hope dies lastStuds Terkel’s Hope Dies Last has been my bedtime reading of late. Studs interviewed a number of people (post 9/11) on the topic of hope. (The book was published in 2003.) The book has stories from a range of people, ranging from notable figures (Paul Tibbets, pilot of the Enola Gay) and John Kenneth Galbraith, elected officials, teachers, clergy, musicians, activists, organizers, students, and more.

I’m not quite done with the book, but today—the day after Super Tuesday, which is also Ash Wednesday—is a good day to write about it. (I’m giving up reading political blogs for lent, a hard thing to do today, especially, since my state held an election yesterday. The upside is that posting here ought to increase accordingly. wink )

On this site, I veer away from politics and religion. Still, hope runs through both of those topics. And today, a little of politics and a little of religion, and a lot of oral history find common ground in Terkel’s book. Hope Dies Last offers a fascinating glimpse into contemporary history. These are the stories that aren’t “before my time” but during my ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on February 06, 2008 in • BooksHistory
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