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(Some Guy)   The history of the audio cassette tape. Get your pencils ready   (murketing.com) divider line
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9144 clicks; posted to Main » on 21 Mar 2010 at 10:58 AM (8 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2010-03-20 05:15:35 PM  
That is a great article. Thanks for sharing!
 
2010-03-20 05:28:28 PM  
Nice article. I'm not so much in love with the sound of cassettes as with the idea of them. I have a Nakamichi deck that plays two-sided cassetes by physically ejecting one side, flipping it over and re-inserting it to play the "flip side." You don't get neat stuff like this with CDs. Or even with vinyl, unless you own a juke box.

I have a player in my car -- with adapter for portable cd player or mp3s -- and four decks in my house: two Nakamichis, a Tandberg, and a dual Onkyo for dubbing. Cassettes are FUN. And you can carry them in your shirt pocket.
 
2010-03-20 05:28:37 PM  
Haha! Awesome.

I (finally) threw away about 500 audio cassettes last summer.
 
2010-03-20 05:41:54 PM  
I got my first cassette recorder in the 1970s. It was a monophonic Realistic recorder with built in speaker and condenser microphone, it also came with an external mic that had a remote switch on it. It was my DVR/MP3 player. I would record TV shows I liked by holding the microphone up to the speaker of the TV and shushing my siblings if they made too much noise. I would spend hours with my friends playing Radio Station where we would pretend to be either DJs or Radio Journalists or act out radio plays. I would sit by my AM radio listening for the song I liked to be played then hold the microphone up to the speaker to record it.

In the 80s I got my first Ghetto Blaster. It had line in/out and stereo mic inputs as well as a 5 band graphic equalizer. With it's built in radio there was no longer a need to hold the microphone up to the speaker to record songs I wanted off the air. My brother had a walkman and I would hook the headphone jack to the line in to make mix tapes of the songs I liked best from the albums I bought or copy tapes for/from friends.

Best of all I could take it to jam sessions with friends to record our own musical compositions, or hook the line out from my Commodore 64 to the line in and record my own computer synthesized creations.

The cassette tape made me feel like I had my own recording studio.

In the mid 80s I bought my first multi-track recorder. The Tascam Portastudio One. 4 tracks of digital recording on Chrome cassette with DbX noise reduction. This remained my main recording workhorse all the way until the new millennium when it's moving parts were finally silenced and I was at last fully dragged kicking and screaming into the world of digital, recording for a brief time on my computer before buying a Tascam 788 digital hard disk recorder. The old Portastudio still functions as a mixer and I've given it to my son and he uses it to interface his instruments with his computer to record music of his own. He uses this old portable stereo as a monitor (it has surprisingly good sound and speakers) and it has a semi-working dual cassette deck on it. Only one of the decks will play a tape and only one of the decks can fast forward or rewind. I demonstrated a cassette to him recently and it stirred some vague childhood memories within him of a fisher price tape recorder he had as a little kid.

Was the cassette superior? Hell no. Do I miss it? You bet.
 
2010-03-21 10:16:30 AM  
Let's not forget that we used cassettes for storing programs on home computers. A dual deck is all you needed to copy cool games like "Blue Max" for the Commodore 64.
 
2010-03-21 11:10:53 AM  
Terrific headline. Good job, subby.
 
2010-03-21 11:11:03 AM  
I can't be the first person who saw "Get your penis ready"
 
2010-03-21 11:12:50 AM  
Maxell XL2's for the win.

/still have thousands of cassettes
 
2010-03-21 11:14:09 AM  
I had a friend of mine recently list a bunch of telephone answering machines with cassette tape interfaces on eBay. Surprisingly, every one of them sold for a good piece of change, almost as much as buying a new phone with a digital answering machine.

The only theory I can guess is, people can have a record of phone messages/conversations. Digital machines can do this, but I've yet to see a machine that lets you offload the messages (correct me if I'm wrong) to a computer for archiving. And, if you reset your answering machine (or in some cases, lose power to it), all the messages will be erased.

Yes, the cassette is crude, but for some things, it's still a simple to use, fairly robust format (at least when you left them baking on the dashboard of your car in 150 degree heat!)

\My Lawn
\\Needs mowing, but get off it anyway....
 
2010-03-21 11:15:04 AM  
Music storage peaked with the invention of the 8-track. Cassettes are just a poor imitation.

/off to listen to some BeeGees
 
2010-03-21 11:15:20 AM  
I don't mess cleaning and aligning cassette heads, but still have a fair sized box of cassettes in storage.
 
2010-03-21 11:15:30 AM  
I remember the days of buying an album, then recording it on my Teac deck with metal/Dolby C, whereupon I would put the album back in the sleeve and stash it away. Would try to only drag it back out when I needed to record another "first gen" copy of the tape.

And regarding "data" tapes - who remembers accidentally tossing one into the stereo deck? God have mercy on your tweeters!

/Also tended to harsh the mellow of any party ongoing at the time...
 
2010-03-21 11:15:55 AM  
The pencil was for??... I just used my pinkie finger.
 
2010-03-21 11:16:47 AM  

alexdroog: Terrific headline. Good job, subby.


This!

/fan of TDK myself
 
2010-03-21 11:19:01 AM  

DoctorCal: Haha! Awesome.

I (finally) threw away about 500 audio cassettes last summer.


I started to throw away some of my cassette tapes, with the intention of copying my "irreplaceable" ones to mp3.

Once I sorted the goats from the sheep, I looked around for a cassette player to use to play them. I couldn't find one in the house. And, aside from Salvation Army thrift stores, I'm not quite sure where to go to find one. Do they still cassette players at Radio Shack and Best Buy?
 
2010-03-21 11:19:15 AM  
80's heavy metal music was made to be played off of a beer-soaked cassette tape. "Twisted Sister" just doesn't sound as good from a 256 kpps MP3.
 
2010-03-21 11:20:51 AM  
As a teen in the 80's, I'm a sucker for stuff from the 80's.... some of the fashion, the primitive computers, vinyl (before CDs took over in the second half of the decade), digital watches, etc.

Cassette Tapes? Not so much. Sound recordings were crap. The tapes you bought at the music store would go bad after some time. Fast Forward - Rewind... can't really get to the songs you want efficiently. And the worst was the cassette players eating your tape. I also used casettes for my C-64, before I got a dsik drive. It must be one of the worst mediums for storing electronic data ever - slow and you had a pretty good chance of losing data.

The only good thing was the cheapness. Nope, no nostalgia for cassette tapes here. I was happy CDs and then I-pods came along.
 
2010-03-21 11:22:35 AM  
maxell metal high bias baby
 
2010-03-21 11:25:24 AM  

SirEattonHogg: As a teen in the 80's, I'm a sucker for stuff from the 80's.... some of the fashion, the primitive computers, vinyl (before CDs took over in the second half of the decade), digital watches, etc.

Cassette Tapes? Not so much. Sound recordings were crap. The tapes you bought at the music store would go bad after some time. Fast Forward - Rewind... can't really get to the songs you want efficiently. And the worst was the cassette players eating your tape. I also used casettes for my C-64, before I got a dsik drive. It must be one of the worst mediums for storing electronic data ever - slow and you had a pretty good chance of losing data.

The only good thing was the cheapness. Nope, no nostalgia for cassette tapes here. I was happy CDs and then I-pods came along.


i remember paying over $400. for my yamaha tape deck...used nothing but maxells in it. sound quality was excellent, never ate a tape.
 
2010-03-21 11:26:18 AM  
I don't miss those damn things at all.
 
2010-03-21 11:26:38 AM  
I still have a collection of cassettes. They're in a box in the garage where I keep all the other stuff that didn't sell at my previous garage sales.

Well. ok. I have one sets of cassettes that I treasure and thats the expanded Star Wars saga that told Episode IV in far greater detail. I loved that series.
 
2010-03-21 11:30:01 AM  

Breech Birth: The pencil was for??... I just used my pinkie finger.


The pinky was good for adjusting the tension, but for high-speed rewinds, a pencil was necessary. Just stick it in, and twirl it around like a noise maker.
 
2010-03-21 11:30:11 AM  
I had a '77 Pontiac LeMans with an in-dash 8-track player. I think I had one 8-track tape. Radio Shack had an adapter that would plug into the 8-track deck and play cassettes, which was awesome. When I started buying CDs I got a portable CD player with an casette adapter that would plug into the headphone jack of the CD player. So I would put the casette adapter into the 8-track adapter and play CDs through my 8-track.

Cassette combined the problems of having moving parts that could jam or tangle, an analog magnetic medium that would start to degrade whenever it ran through a magnetic field, and being made out of plastic that could melt. On top of that the tape would stretch over time. The only advantage was that it was erasable.
 
2010-03-21 11:35:19 AM  

oldebayer: Nice article. I'm not so much in love with the sound of cassettes as with the idea of them. I have a Nakamichi deck that plays two-sided cassetes by physically ejecting one side, flipping it over and re-inserting it to play the "flip side." You don't get neat stuff like this with CDs. Or even with vinyl, unless you own a juke box.


The Dragon. I always wanted one. Settled for the DR3 instead.

/got more cassettes than any of you have MP3s and 90% of them still sound great.
 
2010-03-21 11:39:17 AM  

BigSnatch: I can't be the first person who saw "Get your penis ready"


Why yes, yes you are.....
 
2010-03-21 11:40:09 AM  
I would spend hours and hours scouring my cassette collection looking for the correct mixture of songs to tell the story of what I was feeling at the time. The limitations of the cassette and playback added to the challenge. I have 3.06 minutes left on side one, what do I have to fill that gap? You couldn't confidently skip to the next song, or rewind to the previous song. You had to take the tape as a whole.

The amount of work and patience and heartfelt emotion that went into the proper mixtape can still bring those feelings back when you pop the scratchy hissy tape into the deck, something that the modern convenience of CDs or mp3s just don't have. Akin to looking at fading photographs that your grandparents had, the knowledge that these memories are eventually going to disappear makes you cherish them more. Maybe it is nostalgia for a childhood gone by.
seattlest.comView Full Size
 
2010-03-21 11:42:49 AM  
I don't know how many cassette tapes I threw out the window of my car after the tape player ate them. Quite a few. I remember when it was common to pull up to most any STOP sign or Red light and see cassette tape fluttering in the breeze after @sshole litterbugs such as myself threw them out.

Threw away my last few cassette tapes last year. They still worked, but man was the sound awful after 20 years of deterioration.

/no longer an @sshole litterbug, just an @sshole
 
2010-03-21 11:43:57 AM  
I was an early cassette adopter. The first LP I backed up to cassette was Vincibus Eruptum, by Blue Cheer. At the time I only had this mono cassette recorder so I crossed wires on the RCA jacks on my mother's console stereo and made a mono signal. Mono was still perfectly acceptable back then. I also installed a jack on our TV and recorded tons of TV audio, which I still have, mostly movie audio.

I grew into increasingly sophisticated cassette equipment, including some pro decks. Most of my later years of recording was done entirely on metal tape. These still sound damn good. Also, in the mid-80s I was flush financially thanks to Ronald Reagan. I used to buy the prerecorded cassette and the CD of an album, dump the tape, roll in metal tape, then record the CD. What can I say? I liked the little pictures on the boxes.

I still have a huge collection of cassettes and listen to them all the time. My main listening deck is an old Aiwa that has has the fastest auto-reverse you can imagine. The instant the head hits the leader the tape's rolling the other way. I'm also into reel-to-reel but that's another story. Christ, I'm geeky.
 
2010-03-21 11:45:09 AM  
I fondly remember driving my RX7 with my girlfriend in the 80's listening to the latest mix tape we had made. Good Times ... I miss the eighties!
 
2010-03-21 11:50:13 AM  
I knew a guy who dealt with car audio sales and repairs. I remember him telling me he would have to retrieve / repair mangled broken cassette tapes from cars. The problem? Dude would get in the car in the dead of winter at minus 40 degrees and dangnabit that cassette had to run right away even though everything else about the car would barely move. Those were the days my friend...

I know cool story and all and yes it's cold 8 months of the year.
 
2010-03-21 11:51:02 AM  

bhandler: maxell metal high bias baby


That brings back memories of a courtship, he introducing me to Gustav Mahler, Peter Murphy and Kate Bush, me introducing him to Sam & Dave, Squeeze, Dean Martin. I guess you can tell a lot about someone from their mix tapes. He was brooding and artistic, looking for deep thoughts to think. I liked absorbing sunshine, laughing at the world, and tasting all I could of it.

Those tapes are all in a box in the attic, and he drifts in and out, still searching for some elusive Thing he's never quite been able to name. I'm here in chronic pain, still doing my darndest just to make each day a little different from the rest.

I'd go back there to the mix tape days right now if I could, just for today, maybe.
 
2010-03-21 11:52:31 AM  
Everyone is forgetting: before there were CDs, the only way to have nonradio music in the car was cassettes. And even after CDs, it took a decade before cars came with CD players instead of cassette players.
 
2010-03-21 11:54:40 AM  

macadamnut: I don't miss those damn things at all.


Nor do I. I had bad luck with the tape getting warped and tangled in my cheap Walkman knockoff (Sanyo).
 
2010-03-21 11:54:42 AM  
I think the sudden resurgence of vinyl and, god help us, tapes is an extremely over-reactive way of the public (or a niche audience, anyway) trying to distance itself from CDs. Discuss.


Though I think CDs got blamed for things that weren't the medium's fault, I can understand the vinyl fascination. But for the life of me, I don't get the fascination with tapes. I listen to plenty of lo-fi music that was created on 4-tracks, but tapes have always seemed like its sole purpose was to tape your vinyl albums so you can carry them around. By that definition, you might as well be using a CD and not worry about your deck eating your tape.
 
2010-03-21 12:01:29 PM  
When I started to work at Best Buy years ago, they were just starting to phase out cassettes. It was kind of sad to see them go but hey, they were no longer the thing.

Me, I still dig them and still have my Sony Walkman AM/FM player with 3-band equalizer, auto-reverse, Dolby NR and all that shiat. I spent a small fortune on it back in the late '80s: $129.99. Either way, it still rocks. And my brother used to have a boombox with two built-in mics to record in stereo and let me tell you, the depth of sound on that was insane. I still have a tape that me and a friend of mine recorded with it and it's hard to think that it was done with a boombox.

One of the things I loved (like everybody else) was making a mixtape. The real trick was hoping you had enough room for that one last song.

But that was solved with the Personics System (new window) came around, except now you had to PAY for a mixtape...
 
2010-03-21 12:02:20 PM  

Forbidden Doughnut: macadamnut: I don't miss those damn things at all.

Nor do I. I had bad luck with the tape getting warped and tangled in my cheap Walkman knockoff (Sanyo).


Er, not that I think tapes are in any way awesomer than everything that followed them, but I think the phrase "cheap Walkman knockoff" is a clue. The cheap players never wound the tape tightly enough. And cheap tapes came with their own attending issues. You had to pay to get quality, with both tapes and players.
 
2010-03-21 12:04:31 PM  
silent tom
i remember paying over $400. for my yamaha tape deck...used nothing but maxells in it. sound quality was excellent, never ate a tape.

Yeah, that's the thing - you had to really pay for excellent sound from a tape. $400 (1980's dollars) for a tape deck was certainly pricey.
 
2010-03-21 12:08:17 PM  
mud_shark:
[snip]/got more cassettes than any of you have MP3s [snip]

BUHAHAHA...

erm. sorry. you keep thinking that. I know my mp3 collection, and I seriously doubt that you have that many tapes. And even if you do have the external 2-car garage rented for the storage, this is FARK, and there are others here with 2-5-10x my collection alone. No, no lists of my music here - no need to paint a target on me.

/got my first 3-ish gigs of music with a Packard Bell with a 2x CD player, a line in from my stereo, and a 14.4 (later upgraded to a 33.6) modem.

/but i'm still young, according to FARK
 
2010-03-21 12:14:43 PM  

alexdroog: Terrific headline. Good job, subby.


Except for the HISTORY part.....


what non-hipster-douche history may look like:
"Magnetic tape was invented for recording sound by Fritz Pfleumer in 1928 in Germany, based on the invention of magnetic wire recording by Valdemar Poulsen in 1898."
 
2010-03-21 12:17:35 PM  
geardiary.comView Full Size


Obligatory
 
2010-03-21 12:17:48 PM  
One of the problems with cassettes was that people wouldn't clean or demagnetize the heads,I stll have an old hand-held demagger,great for home machines but useless in car units.I was pretty anal about keeping the heads clean & with a high-end unit that had Dolby C (I had a Teac & a JVC) & metallic tape I made damn good recordings from vinyl.
The biggest problem for me,being a musician,was the progressively higher amounts of hiss & high-end loss when making dupes of demo tapes,I don't have that now with CDs.

Last year I picked up a really nice Onkyo single-cassette player in a thrift shop for $10,Dolby C & metal tape capable,cleaned & demagged the heads & I'm using it to transfer old tapes to digital.
 
2010-03-21 12:17:59 PM  

lilistonic: Forbidden Doughnut: macadamnut: I don't miss those damn things at all.

Nor do I. I had bad luck with the tape getting warped and tangled in my cheap Walkman knockoff (Sanyo).

Er, not that I think tapes are in any way awesomer than everything that followed them, but I think the phrase "cheap Walkman knockoff" is a clue. The cheap players never wound the tape tightly enough. And cheap tapes came with their own attending issues. You had to pay to get quality, with both tapes and players.


True enough. I remember wanting a high-end Sony Walkman w/Dolby back in High School, but couldn't get the money for it. ($200? , something like that...)

/ $200 was a lot of money for a HS student back in '82.
 
2010-03-21 12:18:49 PM  
my lawn, get off it.
 
2010-03-21 12:21:40 PM  
fark cassette tapes, I remember really shiatty sounding Who tapes I had. You could hear the other side bleeding through and playing backwards. And I paid farking money for this shiat. Get all nostalgic if you want, but tapes sucked.
 
2010-03-21 12:23:12 PM  

DoctorCal: Haha! Awesome.

I (finally) threw away about 500 audio cassettes last summer.


Canm you tell me how you developed the willpower to do that? Just the other day I was looking, with dread, at about five boxes of cassettes that a) I mostly have no idea what's on them because the labels have peeled off/faded and b) I will most likely never throw away, because I'll never have time to go through and listen to find out what I want to keep.
 
2010-03-21 12:25:52 PM  

SirEattonHogg: silent tom
i remember paying over $400. for my yamaha tape deck...used nothing but maxells in it. sound quality was excellent, never ate a tape.

Yeah, that's the thing - you had to really pay for excellent sound from a tape. $400 (1980's dollars) for a tape deck was certainly pricey.


yea, it was pricey, but i was into that then. i'd love to build another system but i can't justify the cost. now it's mp3s with all my tunes stored on the pc. i have just a decent receiver and a couple pairs of nice bookshelf speakers. just aint the same. but....it is more convenient.
 
2010-03-21 12:29:00 PM  

Forbidden Doughnut: lilistonic: Forbidden Doughnut: macadamnut: I don't miss those damn things at all.

Nor do I. I had bad luck with the tape getting warped and tangled in my cheap Walkman knockoff (Sanyo).

Er, not that I think tapes are in any way awesomer than everything that followed them, but I think the phrase "cheap Walkman knockoff" is a clue. The cheap players never wound the tape tightly enough. And cheap tapes came with their own attending issues. You had to pay to get quality, with both tapes and players.

True enough. I remember wanting a high-end Sony Walkman w/Dolby back in High School, but couldn't get the money for it. ($200? , something like that...)

/ $200 was a lot of money for a HS student back in '82.


I don't remember which one I had then; it wasn't quite the "real" thing either. But I remember having enough money to buy a pre-recorded cassette and then copy it onto a "better" one that would be more durable and even sound a little better, though it was a copy. Good times.
 
2010-03-21 12:29:00 PM  

BIGstan: mud_shark:
[snip]/got more cassettes than any of you have MP3s [snip]

BUHAHAHA...

erm. sorry. you keep thinking that. I know my mp3 collection, and I seriously doubt that you have that many tapes. And even if you do have the external 2-car garage rented for the storage, this is FARK, and there are others here with 2-5-10x my collection alone. No, no lists of my music here - no need to paint a target on me.


Do I keep thinking that?

Or did I just make an obviously byperbolic (heh) statement to express that I have a lot of tapes. Is it literally more than your MP3s? Or do they just weigh more.

And the thought of asking for your list never even crossed my mind.

I wasn't offering to send B&P
 
2010-03-21 12:33:06 PM  
I just miss mix tapes. There was an art to putting together a really fantastic mix that fits perfectly on each side of the tape, and it's just not quite the same on a CD. And playlists? Please, where's the challenge ...

The best part was when your expensive sony walkman ate your well-crafted mixtapes, days after completion.

Now excuse me, there's someone on my lawn that I need to frighten off by loudly playing Licensed to Ill on cassette.
 
2010-03-21 12:33:40 PM  
Today's young children are missing out on having a tape recorder. I used to create my own radio show, like a lot of kids, back in the '70s and '80s. I don't see a lot of this sort of activity with more modern means.

As for commercial music, though...Cassettes were peoples' first portable music and that was really their only redeeming quality. With nothing else available, we didn't mind all the minuses of the medium.

CDs overtook that niche for about 15 years, and now we've got digital files. Now it's practical to use the shuffle function...no so much with CD's (shuffling 10-15 songs? Whoopee.) I still like having the vinyl for my "permanent" copy, though. So long as they're taken care of, they'll outlive you. And I love dropping the needle, watching the label go round and round, and hearing a little vinyl noise...like wrinkles in leather...
 
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