Monday, March 14, 2011

Ode to a cassette tape

by Nathan Stout (of According To Whim.com)

Ok, I am not going to actually write an ode. I just want to wax poetic about cassette tapes. I love tapes. They are fairly durable, versatile, and somewhat fixable. The same can *somewhat* be said of CDs but there is still something about the cassette tape that appeals to me. It is probably a nostalgia thing.

I was around when records were still the norm then along came 8 track and cassette tapes. Records went away (there are still some cool things about records but I won't go there) and 8 tracks died a fairly quick death (like DAT tapes). Cassette tapes seemed to be the future until the 80's when CDs started creeping into society (because the price finally started dropping).

A few of the first tapes I ever had were hand me downs from my brother. One was the Ghostbusters soundtrack, the Miami Vice soundtrack, and Billy Joel's greatest hits. I can't tell you how many times listened to each of those but I am sure I wore them out. Over the years I got tapes here and there but not regularly since they were expensive for a kid/teen. There was this little store down the street from where I grew up that was run by some Koreans. It was called Sun and Moon. They had a selection of tapes on display under the glass fronted counter which were of dubious origin. I picked up the Batman soundtrack, Fine Young Cannabis (oops, Cannibals), and even Information Society. This selection of cheap tapes is PROBABLY where I got my musical tastes as an adult. I think I wore out all those tapes as well.

In 1992 I bought my first CD player. This was back when they were about $120.00 (Optimus brand) and you had to have an amplifier. The first CD I bought was the Star Wars soundtrack (an straight port from the LP). My family had gone to Disney World that year and I saved as much money as I could for that trip and didn't spend it all so I could get it when we got back home. It was fantastic and basically began my transition from tapes to CD (at least at home).

I still used tapes for my car, mix tapes, and my recording of Robotech video tapes. I found that in the car tapes worked best. I lost too many CDs by trying to juggle them while driving. They got scratches and even broke (Sting's Brand New Day) when heavy stuff falls on them. I started gravitating back towards tapes in the car. If you remember my post on moment that make us happy I talked about listening to a tape in my car. Maybe this is why I still hold onto tapes...

Back around 1996-1997 I bought an imported tape set of the audio books for Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life. I made a copy of the tapes and sold the originals. I have listened to those tapes for more than 10 years. I do have them on MP3 but the places I listen to them at are generally more conducive to listening to them on tape. I am sure one day everything will be able to play MP3s but until then the sturdy old tape will do me just fine in certain areas of my life.

It is becoming harder and harder to find tape players and I suppose I just need to get over my love of the tape. I thought that at some point people would wake up and realize that tapes are tough alternative to the fragile CD and keep them around (if only for specialized uses). I might be holding on just as those who thought 8 track wouldn't die.

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