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This Vietnamese man has collected and fixed old tape recorders for decades

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 11:30 GMT+7
This Vietnamese man has collected and fixed old tape recorders for decades
Nguyen Thi sits next to record players at his home in Da Lat City, Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Photo: Le Van & Dong Cac / Tuoi Tre

A Vietnamese man has spent several decades collecting and restoring old record players, several of them produced over a hundred years ago.

Nguyen Thi stores a number of record players or gramophones on all stories of his old-style house on downtown Yagout Street in Vietnam’s Central Highlands tourist city of Da Lat.

The 55-year-old bachelor said his interest in record players was inspired by his father.

“He gave me a reel-to-reel gramophone that I could use to record music from larger record players.”

Thi keeps the Italian-made gramophone as a reminder of his late father.

“It’s been over 60 years since I was first introduced to tape recorders,” the man said.

He added his father worked as a repairman, fixing up to 50 wire recorders on busy days and sometimes burning the midnight oil to get the work completed.

Thi and his younger brother, also single now, are the only children who have followed in their father’s footsteps and lived with their over-90-year-old mother.

“What’s interesting about the job is that just as doctors save patients, so I revive machines that are considered useless,” Thi said.

“I’ve maintained the business at the expense of important pursuits of a human like employment, family and material wealth.”

Nguyen Thi is seen with his record players at his home in Da Lat City, Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Photo: Le Van & Dong Cac / Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Thi is seen with his tape recorders at his home in Da Lat City, Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Photo: Le Van & Dong Cac / Tuoi Tre

Thi realized his passion by collecting tape recorders available around the country in the early stages of the effort and then purchasing more on the Internet in recent years.

His skill and knowledge of music have greatly helped him in the repair.

He created his own tools of the trade and learned a lot from the versatile father, who could make wooden furniture and fix automobiles.

The man said it is thanks to his father that he knows the first sound-recording device used steel wires as the pivotal component.

He managed to buy such a machine on the Internet from a foreigner who was taken aback by his offer to take it.

Thi successfully made the wire recorder work again after perusing a book his father left.

“It’s saddening that my father died before he could see the machine he had told me about. I once disagreed with him on that such a thing really didn’t exist in the world.”

“I’ve kept it as a memento of him.”

Nguyen Thi and the old recording wire he bought. Photo: Le Van & Dong Cac / Tuoi Tre
Nguyen Thi and the old recording wire he bought. Photo: Le Van & Dong Cac / Tuoi Tre

After graduating from high school, Thi made a living by repairing tape recorders and building musical instruments in Da Lat, where he is living.

Customers who wanted to have him restore their tape recorders gradually grew in number, amongst whom were a French person and people from Vietnam’s major metropolises of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.   

“My father tended to have eventualities covered. He stored the wire recorders customers had given him,” he said.

“Instead of throwing them away, he kept them in the house. That’s why the number of tape recorders rose significantly when he’s alive. I’ve adopted his practice, believing that one day the owners would come here to claim them.”

Thi hopes to find a person who really cares about his wire recorders.

“As I’m single, I want to give the collection as a gift or entrust the care of it to someone who genuinely loves this job so that it can be improved. I don’t want my legacy to be lost or used for commercial purposes.”

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