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Unearthing audio I recorded 16 years ago with a Panasonic RR-US360

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This is the story of digital dictaphone thing where I thought the audio might have been lost on it forever.

The thing you see is a Panasonic RR-US360 and I've had it in my possession for over 16 years. I do know I bought it at a Walmart, but can't remember if I bought it when living up north or the south.

To put in perspective how old this thing is, Microsoft Windows 7 didn't even exist at the time it was made. More on that in a moment.

I don't remember exactly why I bought the RR-US360, but a fading memory tells me I thought it a good idea to have something small where I could just press a button to record and start talking. These days, all you need to do is grab your phone and use a voice memo app if you want a simple voice recorder. But back in the late 2000s, you still had to buy a purpose-built device if you wanted that kind of on-the-go functionality. Although I should say that voice memo recorders are still sold new today and are called digital voice recorders. The one people seem to like the best is the Sony ICD-PX470.

The way the RR-US360 was made was just stupid. It has fixed memory, meaning you can't add in a memory card even though that technology was available at the time. Yes, that means once it's filled up, you have to export the audio files manually to get memory back so you can record more voice memos. Also, the menu system is cryptic and difficult to use.

However, that's nothing compared to what you need just to access what's on the RR-US360 using a PC.

Before I tell you the requirements, here's why I kept my RR-US360 for as long as I have.

Many moons ago I recorded a few voice memos on the thing, and then I put it in storage. Then I moved, and it was somehow damaged in the move. Some kind of moisture damage from what I can tell. I could power it and the LCD looked okay, but the front buttons no longer worked, so I couldn't play back memos from the device itself.

My only hope was to connect the RR-US360 to a computer and get to the voice memos that way...

...and that's where things stopped. I absolutely could not get this thing to recognize properly in Windows, so I figured okay, I'll put it in storage and get back to it someday and figure it out.

That was a long time ago.

Given that 2023 has been the year of Stop Using Old Computer Media for me, I said to myself okay, I'm getting out that stupid RR-US360 and will make it work somehow.

The RR-US360 does have a mini USB port on it, so I plugged it into Windows 10 just to see what would happen.

Nothing.

I then put two AAA batteries into the RR-US360 and tried again, thinking that might help.

It did. Windows 10 made its connect sound for a new device being connected, but it didn't show up anywhere in available drives to use. Checked Device Manager. It's there, but driver-less because Windows couldn't find anything that would work with it.

Then I remembered something. I have the ancient Panasonic Voice Editing 1.0 software in my archives. Will it work in Windows 10? I didn't know, so I attempted an installation, and yes, it installed. Will that place the appropriate drivers so the RR-US360 recognizes...?

Nope. The RR-US360 was still in Device Manager with no compatible driver available.

Then I thought maybe I need another driver, so I scoured around the internet, and found one. I installed the driver, and...

Nothing. The RR-US360 still wouldn't recognize.

I then thought to myself, "Okay. If this stupid RR-US360 will only work in a very specific OS, let's try this in Windows XP".

Into Virtualbox I go. Windows 10 sees-yet-not-sees the RR-US360, but I can "share" that device into a virtual installation of Windows XP and think maybe that will work.

I fire up virtual XP, share the device, and...

...XP sees it and is asking for a driver.

Oh... oh oh oh oh oh... I'm close. And I've got the driver.

I share a directory from Win10 into WinXP where the driver is, point XP to that, and...

...INSTALLED AND RECOGNIZED!

Then I install that ancient Panasonic Voice Editing 1.0 software, and...

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SUCCESS!

What you see above are the converted RR-US360 voice memo files into WAVs.

To recap this ridiculousness...

In order to get to the voice memo files on the RR-US360, all of the following are required:

  1. RR-US360 must be able to be powered by AAA batteries in order for its own mini USB port to work.
  2. You must be using Windows XP just for the stupid driver to work.
  3. You need the Panasonic Voice Editing software to access the contents of the RR-US360. Why? Because once recognized by XP, the RR-US360 is not seen by Windows as standard USB storage, because that would just make too much sense. Nope. You want access to the files? You need the ultra-proprietary software to do it.
  4. Not only do you need the Panasonic Voice Editing software, but it has to be v1.0 just to recognize the RR-US360.
  5. Once in the Voice Editing software, you must convert the proprietary voice memo files over to WAVs just to get them out of there. And it doesn't help that the software isn't easy to use at all. (The screenshot above may give the appearance that it's easy, but trust me, it's not.)

WOW.

What did I find?

The very first voice memo, which is really the only one worth posting here, was me complaining about how difficult it was to get audio off the RR-US360 back in '07:

Very ironic.

I don't ever want to touch one of these things ever again. If anybody ever approached me to get the audio off of one, I'd say pay me $1,000 and I'd do it, and you pay for shipping both ways. That's how much I want to keep the RR-US360 out of my life.

True, I didn't find any audio gold, so to speak. But at long last, I finally got the audio out of the RR-US360 and can chuck that stupid thing in the trash.

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