Cassette tapes

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Mendalla

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Lou Ottens, the Dutch engineer who developed the cassette tape, passed away at the age of 94 on March 6. He had quite a career at Philips starting in 1953. He invented cassettes in the early 60s (1960, but they were first shown at a trade show in 1963). To top off his remarkable career, he also supervised the team that developed CDs. Talk about making a major contribution to not just his industry, but to society.

My first audio device was big, blue cassette player. Couldn't even tell you which birthday or Christmas I got it for, but I am fairly sure I was under 10. My first record player came a bit later, maybe when I was 12. For most of my youth, I bought a mix of vinyl and cassettes, moving to CDs and cassettes later.

Cassettes had many virtues.

They were the most portable audio format until the advent of flash drives and MP3s. Think of the old Sony Walkman, which was really the first portable audio device, predating MP3 players by a couple decades.

They were easy to record on, allowing the creation of the mix tape (which then evolved into today's playlists)

They could be used for more than just audio. My first computer, a Commodore 64 bought c. 1982 or 83, came with a cassette drive for storing programs and data. You could store a fair bit on a C60 or C90 but had to be very, very careful to record the starting point correctly using the counter on the drive. And a lot of older answering machines and dictaphones used a micro form of the cassette tape. Oh, and the Unitarian Fellowship used to record the services on cassettes and I have a couple of the tapes of mine that someone gave me when they were doing some housecleaning.

I still have some music cassettes around and some old "ghetto blasters" that can play them, but I mostly listen to music on my phone and tablet nowadays. My CDs I can easily rip to MP3 but I've never found a way, without investing in some extra gear, to "rip" a cassette.

So, cassette tapes played a big part in my life. I send my vibes and condolences to Lou Ottens' family and a huge "Thanks, Lou" to Ottens himself.


Any memories of cassettes or music you had on cassette? Other ways you used them besides for music?
 

Redbaron

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They were the first recorded music that could fit easily into a shirt pocket. That came in handy for me a few times. Can't do that with a CD.
Advantage cassette.
 

Mendalla

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They were the first recorded music that could fit easily into a shirt pocket. That came in handy for me a few times. Can't do that with a CD.
Advantage cassette.
According to the article (or maybe another obit I read) he used carved wooden blocks to figure out the right size to fit in a pocket. Ingenuity befitting a, well, engineer.
 

BetteTheRed

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I had a ton of tapes, for road trips, in particular. My baby sister made me many of them. The two that "lived in the tape deck" and were replaced more than once were "Jesus Christ Superstar" and Great Big Sea. In latter years, Dave made me special audio CDs. He sent Nick and I out west with two CDs with Tom Petty on them - a live radio interview with a ton of music, but fun yacking, as well, a live concert, some other stuff. It was a lovely summary of Petty's musical life. I have a boatload of that kind of thing.
 

Mendalla

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"Jesus Christ Superstar"
I got the original album (the one with Ian Gillan of Deep Purple as Jesus and Murray Head as Judas) as an Easter gift one year. Played it a lot but never had to replace it. Not sure if I would buy that one today. There were a couple good original cast albums from revivals in the last 20 years or so.
 

BetteTheRed

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I got the original album (the one with Ian Gillan of Deep Purple as Jesus and Murray Head as Judas) as an Easter gift one year. Played it a lot but never had to replace it. Not sure if I would buy that one today. There were a couple good original cast albums from revivals in the last 20 years or so.

I'm sure I had all of them in various media. Pretty sure that somewhere I have audio of the Arena version.
 

BetteTheRed

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I've just exited 24.5 years of "every time I mentioned a new interest" I would get flooded with associated media.

Quite aside from most of which I am about to help landfill (his collection), I have a full closet wall, I'd guess, if I ever consolidated it from car, computer area, the closet, of, 50 live concerts of Steve Earle, a few of Van Morrison's, a gazilion of Jerry Garcia Band, hours of Loreena McKennit, assorted blueglass, most of Ani DiFranco and it goes on forever. He'd also record shows he thought I might want to share on Tuesday nights. And yoga routines when I was into that.

And much of his legacy is landfill and personal memory.
 
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I have a pocket -portable cassette tape recorder somewhere (I distinctly remember making a decision to buy one with regular cassettes not mini cassettes - because regular cassette tapes could be found anywhere - that I bought for the classes I took in the mid 90s. But it’s just a dictaphone. Works fine. I didn’t end up using it much. It’s not stereo. Is that what some bootleggers used?
 
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I think I got rid of my cassette deck which was a hand me down from the late 70s, in roughly 2008? That cassette deck was way better quality than the speakers and CD player I had. That was replaced by a CD/ radio/ tape/ iPod dock ghetto blaster stereo, that my to be husband, got me as a gift, around that time. We still played some CDs on it occasionally and we listened to the radio on it...but he got it for the iPod dock which is now useless, as is a Bose port my dad gave me in about 2010 or 2011. Ten years old, it might as well be a relic. Record players,cassette players...at one time electronics was made to not break down, until some greedy jerks figured out planned obsolescence, or at least how to speed it up. (And that highlights a huge problem with late stage capitalism: overproduction, waste, pollution and greed.)
 
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I actually did an interview with a semi famous one or two hit band, for school (was a journalism course), that was playing at the club I coat checked at...so I ran out and got one. Mid 90s. Actually, I think I was invited to do an interview the next day at the Commodore in Vancouver, but I lived here, so I ran out and got it and got on the ferry the next morning...then they also played at the place I worked, possibly. I was called, on the phone my classroom!!! We had a phone at the back of the room, in a sort of cloakroom office, because it was a journalism class...a record company called me and asked me if I wanted to interview a band called James at the Commodore in Van. That was the place to be. I had friends to stay with. When I got there, the band decided not to allow interviews. A couple of my classmates were jealous that I was even invited because they liked the band for longer than I did. I got called because of a different interview or because I was a squeaky wheel who got on a list of student journalists. So I was like, “Snooze you lose.” I also interviewed a band called Bootsauce. But I never used the recorder to boot-leg.
I have a pocket -portable cassette tape recorder somewhere (I distinctly remember making a decision to buy one with regular cassettes not mini cassettes - because regular cassette tapes could be found anywhere - that I bought for the classes I took in the mid 90s. But it’s just a dictaphone. Works fine. I didn’t end up using it much. It’s not stereo. Is that what some bootleggers used?
 

ninj

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My old '99 Forester still had a cassette deck. I found some tapes 2nd hand, but found they had deteriorated considerably. I guess you can still find new tapes? Wouldn't they all be old if they stopped making them?
 
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My old '99 Forester still had a cassette deck. I found some tapes 2nd hand, but found they had deteriorated considerably. I guess you can still find new tapes? Wouldn't they all be old if they stopped making them?
They’re probably still being made, just not as many. I think mix-tapes are a sort of trendy retro thing with young people now, kind of like vinyl. Marc Maron does a funny stand up set about cassette tapes. It’s quite accurate! But funny!
 

Waterfall

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I remember having arguments over which was better....cassettes or eight tracks. People that loved the eight tracks loved the sound produced much better than the cassettes. Much like the argument of vynal records superiority over CDs.
I have to admit I thought eight tracks sounded better but chose cassettes overall for the compactness.
The other thing I liked about tapes it was easy to record on....I used to play guitar and write songs and you cant record using a CD or can you? (I may be out of the loop on that.)
 

Mendalla

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I remember having arguments over which was better....cassettes or eight tracks. People that loved the eight tracks loved the sound produced much better than the cassettes. Much like the argument of vynal records superiority over CDs.
I have to admit I thought eight tracks sounded better but chose cassettes overall for the compactness.
The other thing I liked about tapes it was easy to record on....I used to play guitar and write songs and you cant record using a CD or can you? (I may be out of the loop on that.)
Not easily. Burners don't really work interactively. You'd have to record to a computer (or other device with digital storage) and then burn to a CD, probably. That's why CDs never caught on for mixing either. Too complicated.

Dad had an eight track player in his old cabinet stereo in the seventies but I can't say I ever compared. Too young to care at the time. And we mostly played vinyl on it. He didn't have that many tapes.
 

BetteTheRed

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We didn't have very many 8 tracks, but some of those we did were very popular (I'm looking at you and Roger Whittaker, Dad). It seems to me that I remember that as an 8-track tape is wearing out, the tracks skip sideways, to sometimes interesting sound effects.
 
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