For the last decade, I've been hanging on to a shoebox full of old cassette tapes, even though I haven't actually had a tape player in the house for years. They're reels of memories: music mixes from old boyfriends, high-school teammates, and friends now scattered around the world. I could try re-creating them as iTunes playlists, I suppose, but not all the songs are available, and, well, I'd have to pay again for every song.
But this month I found Instant Music, by ADS Tech (www.adstech.com). It's a little white box that you connect to an analog player on one end and your computer on the other. It converts those old tapes — or LPs or radio — to digital files (MP3, WAV, WMA, or AAC) stored on your computer. You can either play them from your hard drive or burn them onto CDs. (Another ADS product, DVD Xpress, helps you transfer old VHS tapes to DVD.)
Installing Instant Music and hooking up the wires takes about 30 minutes, and its software isn't the easiest to use. But $49 and an afternoon's worth of "dubbing" with a borrowed tape player were a small price to pay to save those memories — and finally ditch that shoebox of moldering cassettes.
A version of this article appeared in the March 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.