Early in my career with C. Crane, Bob assigned me the task of becoming an expert on the Sangean ATS 909. This radio was pretty small compared to a lot of our radios at the time and pretty complex with multiple key presses to access additional features.
We needed a tutorial for our blind customers, so I agreed to give it a go. We carried an Aiwa cassette recorder similar to this one. It had this little microphone and I sat on the floor of an empty room in my home and spent hours learning how to use the 909 and the cassette recorder. I was not a shortwave aficionado by any stretch of the imagination which I think in some ways gave me an advantage because I was learning it just like anyone new would be.
Explaining how to use these devices to someone who couldn’t see or couldn’t see well, was a unique challenge. We used to practice providing instruction to blind customers by partnering up in company meetings and one person being blindfolded while the other provided instruction. I also listened to our other tutorials to get some guidance and then embarked on figuring out how to make that work. We carried clear raised adhesive buttons that we included which helped identify certain buttons on the radio more easily. Fortunately, beeps were included in a lot of functions so a person could know when something had been completed or changed.
Doing this recording took me back to junior high and listening to the radio to try to hear that one song so you could press record really quick and add to the mix tape and then end it or rewind so you don’t have the talking from the host in it. Kids these days have no idea what it’s like to only be able to hear the music when (or if) it’s played on the radio and often at a friend’s house because not everyone was allowed to listen to “that” station. The art of the mixtape is utterly lost, especially the ones with the radio DJ’s voice over the top of the song.
Recording with the Aiwa was hilarious. It was pretty simple to use, but imagine no audio editing so there were SOOOOO many takes. I wasn’t sophisticated enough to create a script. I just had notes in the instruction manual, but honestly, it wasn’t a super comprehensive manual which meant a lot of trial and error. We also had a readme that we included with the radio that had additional information, so that was included in the audio instructions as well. It went like this: Press record, read the section and perform the steps while trying to hold the mic, hit pause, rewind, listen… Did it record? Is the audio good enough? Repeat over and over. There were no filters to improve the takes, no AI to make suggestions, and no YouTube videos to learn how to.
After I decided I was done, I didn’t listen to it again because it was too painful and embarrassing. Back then, I also answered the phones so sometimes a customer would call and say “Are you the one who did the audio instructions for the 909?”, my answer was always – “It depends – did you like them and were they helpful to you?”
I will say this experience gave me so much patience when helping customers and giving myself grace when learning or trying something new.
Today we continue to provide audio instructions for some of our radios which can be found at https://ccrane.com/audio-instructions/. Although now they are outsourced to an expert with all the equipment and the knowledge and the tones and stuff to make them more valuable to the user and they’re downloadable or on a CD. We also continue to offer real live tech support with people based in the USA who have access to the products. It’s so important to us that we support our customers and our products the best we can.
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