KeepCalmYesterday I spent much of my time with a client and his client, conducting and recording interviews as fodder for an eventual video script. As I set up my gear for the first session with a senior banking executive, I went through my usual procedure to check the recording equipment, ensuring that everything was working properly. It was.

During the interview, I repeatedly glanced at my gear to see the reassuring blinking lights.

At the end of the 75-minute conversation, I hit the “stop” button on my trusty Samson Zoom H4 digital recorder, and saw the words “File Error” on the tiny screen. My stomach sank to about the level of my ankles.

I put my headphones in my ears and played the first few seconds of the file. Silence.

So now we have spent an hour and 15 minutes with this fellow, and I have nothing.


Then I looked at my backup machine, my good old Edirol R1, the very first digital recorder I’d ever bought, back in 2006. I played the file for a few seconds, and there it was. Just fine.

If I had not packed two recorders in my bag, I would have looked pretty bad. Worse, my client would have lost face in his client’s eyes. And we would have wasted more than an hour of a senior executive’s time. Sure, we had cryptic hand-written notes, but these scribbles did not capture everything.

What happened to the file? I don’t know. Has this happened to me before with this machine? No. Might it happen again? Sure.

That’s why I carry a backup.

And what did I do in the afternoon when we interviewed another leader at the bank? I ran my Edirol, my H4, and iTalk on my iPhone, just in case.

This fear of digital failure – and my preparation for such an eventuality – probably began back in my days as a systems analyst. We backed up everything, knowing that systems fail. It’s just a matter of time.

The point of this post is to remind you that you can’t always rely on your hardware. When the mission is critical, as they say, think twice about what you would do if your main piece of equipment let you down.

As for me, I’m thinking of buying a Zoom H2 to add to my arsenal.