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Free Do-It-Yourself Nixon Tapes

Tricky Dick on your answering machine? Could be.

Three decades ago Richard Nixon started taping his conversations in the White House. Now the public can tape Richard Nixon.

Friday is the first make-your-own Nixon tape day at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. More than 1,200 hours of the former president's conversations will be available for copying at no charge.

The archives has long wanted to make the Nixon tapes more accessible to the public for research. Transcripts of some of the 3,700 hours of tape have been available for years. But the public could only hear 1,284 hours of the tapes - if they went to the archives. Copying the tapes was prohibited.

Representatives of Nixon's estate finally agreed to let the public buy or copy any of the tapes the government has released. Now, anyone armed with a recorder can go to the archives and make his own copy of the infamous president's words.

Included in the batch are tapes relating to the Watergate break-in, the subsequent cover-up, Vietnam, civil rights, busing, the Supreme Court and Cabinet Room conversations. You can even make a recording of the famous 18½ minute gap.

"History won't fully appreciate the immense accomplishments and equally immense pressures of President Nixon's wartime White House, nor will it understand the way the Vietnam War and the passions it aroused colored virtually every aspect of the president's work until historians have a chance to study these recordings in detail," said John Taylor, co-executor of Nixon's estate.

About 2,400 hours worth of tapes are still being processed. Once they are ready the public will be able to copy them as well.

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