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Resurrecting The Rack

The IRC has been working to resurrect a legendary creature that we have come to call "The Rack." The Rack is a relic from a bygone age when audio and video was recorded onto smallish rectangular boxes called "tapes." As has been the case with many things of a technological nature that could have benefited from some standardization, tapes came in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. To record, capture, and transfer media to and from all of these different kinds of tapes, an absurd array of media decks, converters, monitors and patch bays were all linked together in an eye-watering symphony of cables and connectors and complication. Hence, The Rack. And while it could be quite the angry beast to work with in its day, with the passage of time The Rack's old-timey charm has grown, and we refer to it now with more than a little nostalgic fondness and affection.

Removing a few of the floor tiles next to The Rack revealed some pretty epic cable snarls that had to be untangled.

The Rack does have an undeniable beauty about it. It is a museum of some of the world's finest industrial grade electronics manufacturing and craftsmanship. A peek inside a top-of-the-line tape machine from the mid-1990s reveals an astounding array of intricate moving parts squeezed into the tiniest places. Although engineers may have hoped that these machines would stand the test of time, like ice that melts with each new season, an ever changing media technology landscape has rendered most of The Rack's hulking components obsolete. Of course ice is recycled seamlessly by our planet's ecosystem; an obsolete Professional S Video Cassette Recorder is chucked rather un-seamlessly into a big hole with about a million other machines of its kind, and that's that.

Rack guts.

How do we retire this hardware in a responsible way? It's an ongoing challenge. Experimenting with cutting edge technology and conducting media research requires lots of equipment. Much of this equipment is costly to produce and extremely well built, but not built to stay relevant. Our solution to this dilemma in the case of The Rack is to fuse the old with the new.

While we haven't recorded anything to tape in a very long time, much of what the IRC has created in our 30-year history is still archived on tapes. So, in order to view and digitize this media, and extend the life of all this remarkable machinery, we've brought The Rack back, replete with all its clicky clacky buttons, swirling knobs and blinking lights. There's still lots of testing and labeling left to do, but with the addition of a computer and modern breakout box, in the near future we will capture and preserve media recorded on all kinds of different formats such as: VHS, BetacamSP, HDCam, and even the legendary and elusive U-Matic. Our hope is that The Rack will be an exception to the rule of parting with such awesome equipment once it's past its peak, to the detriment of the planet and our capacity to examine and safeguard the past.