Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Digitizing Slides from the Past

The Boyz & I motored up to Tennessee this past Saturday to visit with my parents as it had been quite some time since we had been to my hometown. At one point, my dad mentioned that, in cleaning out a closet, he had come across his old Airequipt slide projector, and six carousels of slides. A certain gloom set in because I thought we were about to be treated to a review of life in the Seventies.

No, he was just interested in getting rid of it all, and wondered if it was worth anything. I had just started a spiel about “check eBay” when the glazed look in his eyes had me re-arranging my words to say, “…Why don’t I take all this back with me and investigate further”. He was only too happy to help load everything in my truck.

eBay is an amazing place. Before I threw a hubcap of my Airstream returning home from Florida a couple of weeks ago, I thought anything could be found there. But to my surprise, there was nothing even remotely similar to what my Overlander needs. Hopefully, the alert eBay allowed me to set up will send encouraging offerings before too long about someone wanting to find a good home for a 1967 Airstream Overlander International Hubcap.

eBay is the place for old Airequipt slide projection equipment, though. There was so much of it, and listed for such low prices that I am not going to bother advertising what came home with me – The potential selling price does not warrant the effort involved to box & ship.

The dust buildup on the projector made me think Dad had probably not used the device since I repaired it 20 years ago. Oddly, although Dad remembered the slides had an irritating tendency to jam, he expressed no thoughts one way or the other about what to do with the medium itself. Between figuring he probably wouldn’t mind seeing the images again, and out of general curiosity, I decided to explore what digitizing the 567 slides would entail so the images could be revisited on a computer instead of a darkened room.

Step one was to investigate a computer accessory which scans photographic negatives into computer-ready digital images I recalled Kim buying for her scrap booking hobby some time ago, but had never used. After reading it would also work with slides, the miniature scanner was hooked up to the computer. Interesting device – It was slow, but did poor work. The slides had to be removed from the carousel and snapped three at a time into a plastic holder. In spite of calibrating the device with its built-in function, every slide fed into it came out looking washed out in the resulting jpeg file. Not the ticket; it was a waste of money in spite of good reviews.

Mr. Google’s top response from ask.com wanted me to place each slide individually on my flat-bed scanner, back-light it with a flashlight, and then scan it. Judging the amount of time & effort required, I decided the answer to someone’s question at that site had been lifted from Dante’s Inferno. The scanner was never even warmed up.

Many helpful Internet entrepreneurs offered to scan the slides for me. But it was going to cost around $200 for the total effort – too much for what I thought might be, at best, no more than casual interest to anyone.

For other reasons, I had also brought Dad’s projection screen back with me. Since Santa gave me a camera tripod last Christmas, I decided to try what amounted to a Kinescope approach to the task wherein the projector and my digital camera work together to acquire the images.

That was the ticket. After the initial setup, the six carousels worth of slides were processed so fast that I hardly had time to look at the flurry of images going past. The slide below of me feeding an elephant gave me pause. Dad had labeled it “Busch Gardens 1971”.

While I remember visiting the attraction, I had not only forgotten about feeding an elephant, I had forgotten they had a zoo.

Between dirt on both the slides and the screen, the images could have turned out a little better. But for a trip down memory lane the results were great.

Plans are to send CDs of the images to the folks, and my brother & sister. Although the Kiwanis Club pictures won’t do much for anyone other than my dad, many of the other images will probably bring back fond memories for my older siblings.

Hopefully one of them will express interest in better quality images. Everything Airequipt is boxed, and waiting for a shipping label.

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