If you have irreplaceable audio recordings on cassette tape that you want to preserve, it is important to know that the anticipated shelf life of analog audio tape is only 25 years or less. Therefore, precious old recordings of your baby’s first words, your high school garage band, or grandpa’s life story should definitely be converted into a CD or a digital file. Ideal for archival purposes, the media on which digital information is stored has a life expectancy of more than 100 years. Here are the two hardware components you need for the transfer process: a cassette player (still available for purchase on websites like Craig’s List and eBay), and a connecting cable. Use a cable with a 1/8 inch, mini stereo phone plug at one end and two RCA phono plugs at the other (these inexpensive cables are readily available at Radio Shack or Amazon). You also need a computer with an audio program installed, such as Audacity(free download), Audition by Adobe or SoundForge. There are several software programs available that enable you to convert analog records and tapes into a digital format. Insert the red and white RCA plugs into the jacks on your cassette player labeled “Out.” Plug the other end of the cable, which is a 1/8 inch stereo mini plug, into the jack on your computer’s sound card labeled “In.” When you insert the mini plug, a screen prompt should open, asking if you want this to be a Mic or Line input. Select “Line Input,” to prevent signal overload and overly loud, distorted audio. Next, open your audio software and select “Record.” You will see a red record light start to blink, indicating that the software program is ready to receive the signal from the player’s output. Make sure your cassette tape has been rewound to the beginning of side “A.” Then press “Play” on the cassette player, transferring the sound stored on the analog tape into the computer. This process is referred to as converting an audio cassette tape into a CD or digital audio file, or simply A-to-D conversion. When side “A” is completely transferred, pause the recording process, turn the cassette tape over to side “B,” release the “Pause” button in the audio software and play side “B” to complete your analog-to-digital format conversion. After the tape is converted and stored in the computer, more advanced audio software may allow you to remove any tape hiss and/or add equalization to enhance the sound fidelity of the recording. In some software, you can save the file to just about any file format, including: MP3, WAV, AIFF and WMV. You can also burn the digital audio onto a standard music CD, or you can archive the file on a CD data disc.