This year marks the 50th year since the invention of the beloved cassette tape. For you youngsters who haven’t seen, much less heard this little analogue wonder, read on to get acquainted. If you’re a tad bit older though, say hello to nostalgia!
Also called audio cassette, cassette tape, or simply tape, the Compact Cassette is a magnetic tape sound recording format. It was one of the most common formats for pre-recorded music, first alongside the LP record, and then later on, alongside the Compact Disc.
In 1962, the Philips Company of the Netherlands invented the compact audio cassette for audio storage. It was introduced in Europe in 1963, and then in the United States a year later. They were initially used for dictation machines for office typing stenographers and professional journalists, but as the sound quality improved, they went on to become the preferred alternative to the vinyl LPs.
The cassette’s popularity was at its peak during the 80s, when portable pocket recorders and players like the Sony Walkman were made available in the market.
Perhaps the most iconic and memorable thing about the cassette was the concept of a mixtape. Those who lived through the 80s and 90s can vouch for its value and importance. Unlike in the modern and digital time wherein it’s just a matter of download, drag and drop, then burn, creating mixtapes required a larger amount of effort, from the choosing of songs up to the actual recording.
Personally, being a kid from the 90s, I’ve had my own romance with cassette tapes. When I was a child, my mother worked overseas, and she was usually gone for months on end. Since we couldn’t exactly afford to make international calls just yet (and I, being a child, wasn’t yet wordy enough to write long letters), my grandfather would buy blank cassette tapes, and we would record our stories and messages in them for her to hear. After we were done, we would ask another relative or acquaintance who happened to be in town for a vacation, to give it to her once they went back abroad.
I remember loving that first sound when you play a newly-wound tape. The low and seemingly static hum that emits from your speakers as you wait for the opening notes of the song to blast through, which at often times comes unexpectedly, no matter how much you brace yourself.
Or if you were recording, hearing that initial hum sends you to a minor flurry of panic because you either don’t know if it’s already okay to start recording, or you become so self-conscious that you forget what you were going to record.
The commercial hype surrounding cassette tapes may be long gone in this decade, but we can be sure that the analogue memories and nostalgia will stay within us for the rest of our lives.
Sources for this article include the Compact Cassette Wikipedia article.
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