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Andrew Heiskell Braille & Talking Book Library Multimedia: Operating Instructions for the Standard Cassette Book Machine

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Learn more about how to operate the standard cassette book machine.

The cassette machine comes with a cassette tape that gives detailed instructions. To get started, remove the machine from the box, then pull the power cord free from the compartment at the rear of the machine and plug it into a wall outlet. Typically, the machine should be played using its battery pack which can be charged by plugging it in and not using it for 24 hours. If the battery runs out before you’ve finished listening to a book, you can plug the machine in to finish listening, but the battery won’t recharge at that time. Newly received players should be charged for 24 hours as the battery may have lost its charge during transit. To extend the life of the battery, it’s a good idea to unplug the machine to listen to books, then plug it in to recharge when not in use. However, if you will not be using the machine for a day or longer, do not leave it plugged in.

For now, to learn how to use the machine, you can leave it plugged in. Also, it is a good idea to save the instruction cassette once you know it works. This cassette can be used to test the machine if you suspect it isn’t working properly. Sometimes, it might not be the machine, but a cassette tape that is damaged.

There are five keys or buttons with raised indicators on the left side of the front edge of the machine. Behind that, on the left side of the top of the machine, is the “window” slot where the cassette is to be inserted. An instruction cassette should already be in the machine. The five keys, from left to right, are  STOP (red, raised X), REWIND (black, raised arrow pointing left), PLAY (green, raised O), FAST FORWARD (black, raised arrow pointing right), and EJECT (black, smooth top). You must press STOP between each function. For example, after rewinding, you should press STOP, then EJECT.

On the top of the machine on the right, there are five controls. From farthest to nearest the front edge, they are VARIABLE SPEED CONTROL, SPEED, SIDE, TONE, and VOLUME.

VARIABLE SPEED CONTROL is a sliding bar and for regular play should be pushed all the way to the left. Once you are comfortable with the machine and its controls, you can experiment by moving this slide to the right to change how fast or slow the cassette is played.

Below the VARIABLE SPEED CONTROL is the SPEED rocker switch. This allows you to play either a National Library Service cassette or a commercial one. To play our cassettes, this rocker switch should be pushed down to the left (15/16). For commercial cassettes, push it down to the right (1 7/8). If this switch is pushed to the wrong side, you will hear gibberish.

Below the SPEED rocker switch is the SIDE control rocker switch. When it is pressed to the left (1-2), the machine will play the first two sides of each tape. When it’s pressed to the right (3-4), the machine will play the third and fourth side of the tape.

Below the SIDE rocker switch is the sliding control for TONE. Usually, leaving this in the middle is best. Below that, closest to the front, is the sliding switch for VOLUME. Slide it to the left for the lowest volume and to the right for the loudest sound.

When operating the machine, make sure you push the buttons or keys all the way down.

To insert a cassette, press EJECT, then slide the cassette into the slot that opens. The first side is the one with the Braille and print on it. If you can’t read the print, you can feel for the raised dots of the Braille. Tapes are numbered for the first side of the tape: 1, 5, 9, 13, and so on. The open space where the tape is threaded should face you. Make sure the SIDE selector switch and the SPEED switch are pressed down to the left. Push the raised slot back down and press PLAY. There will be a brief delay until the part of the tape with audio is reached.

At the beginning of the first cassette of each book, the narrator announces the number of cassettes and total number of sides for that book. At the end of a side, he or she will give instructions to turn over the tape and play the next side, until the end is reached. When the announcement comes to turn over the tape, press EJECT, turn the tape over, reinsert, then press PLAY.

When the second side is finished,  remove the tape and turn it back over to the first side, then press the SIDE selector switch to the right. This will allow the third side to be played.  When this side has finished playing, remove the tape, turn it over, reinsert, and the fourth side will play.

When you are ready for the next tape, you’ll need to start the process over with the SIDE selector switch pressed down to the left (1-2) and continue with each step for the first tape. In this way, you will work through all the tapes for each book. National Library Service tapes will announce when a side is ended and will prompt you to turn the tape over, and if needed, to change the position of the SIDE selector switch.

If the sound quality sounds garbled or squeaky, you might have accidentally moved the SPEED controls. Be sure both the SPEED and VARIABLE SPEED controls are to the left.

Keep your machine in a clean, dry, and safe location when it’s not being used. Please try to not drink or eat near the machine to avoid spilling onto the machine and damaging it. The player is an electrical device and should not be gotten wet.

To avoid misplacing cassettes or placing them in the wrong container, you should listen to only one book at a time. Sometimes, a tape might not appear to be moving, though the machine is working fine. You can try holding the tape firmly in the palm of your hand and smack it carefully on a hard, flat surface. This may loosen the tape enough for it to move in the machine.

Some tapes take longer before the audio starts than others. This is due to the amount of blank tape or leader at the beginning of each side. If you don’t hear sound after a few minutes, check that you’ve placed it in the machine properly, that it has been rewound, and that the volume control isn’t all the way to the left.

The machine has two jacks on the right side for headphones. The machine can accept two different sizes of headphone plugs. There is also a pullout handle in the front of the machine.

If you have any questions about the machine or if the machine stops working, please contact the library. Do not attempt to open the machine to get to the battery. We will supply you with a replacement player as needed. Contact  us and we’ll give you instructions regarding the return or exchange of the machine.