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Reuters: “Death of the Cassette Tape Greatly Exaggerated.”
This is kind of an interesting article. Some nuggets:
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CASSETTE: A DOCUMENTARY FILM
Zack Taylor and Seth Smoot are less than $3,000 away from completely funding their documentary film on the cassette tape. For more info, click here.
One of my favorite things in the days of taping LPs to Cassettes was to find new and unusual tape brands to try. Yes, I’d check that section of record stores and stereo shops to see what unusual brands they might be carrying.
And cat! Some sort of evil cat or fancy cat too, if I know my cinematic and commercial breeds of cats.
Girl listening to cassettes, 1970s.
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photo found via the discodust blog
From our “Not Sure I’m Believing a Word of This” dept:
The Boston Globe has a story on the upswing in cassette sales for inde and DIY bands.
While Playmixt has indeed a long and storied history with the formerly beloved format — and actually might’ve loved it even more than vinyl since it incorporated the vinyl experience in getting the music to tape — we’re not really sure this “revival” has legs. The folks into this seem to be doing it for more of a novelty factor, like those who are avid 8-track collectors.
The last tape player in the Playmixt household died earlier this year, a brutal reminder of the temperamental nature of the medium of magnetic tape. Untangling chewed and eaten ribbons of music is not a pastime we’re hankering to revisit.
In my vinyl days, while visiting record stores on vacation, I’d look to see what brands of blank tapes they carried; always enjoyed trying something new aside from the Maxell brand which was my typical staple. Don’t recognize most of these but the fourth row far left - “compact cassette” - I’m pretty sure was Radio Shack’s house brand.
Just realized something:
LPs have sides 1 & 2
~unless you’re R.E.M. and name them things like:
chronic town & poster torn — chronic town
L & R — reckoning (hence the title of that long video, ‘Left of Reckoning’)
A side & Another side — fables of the reconstruction
dinner & supper — lifes rich pageant
page & leaf - document
post & script - dead letter office
early & late - eponymous
air & metal - green
time & memory - out of time
us & them - best of R.E.M. (UK)
drive & ride - automatic for the people
c & d - monster
hi & fi - new adventures in hi-fi
up & down - up
chorus & ring - reveal
45s* and Cassettes have sides A & B
~*hence the term “B-side” for stray cuts
CDs have only the right or the wrong side.
~unless it’s one of those short-lived DualDiscs which have a DVD layer on the other side.
The differences between these naming conventions has never occurred to me before.
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Eventually the 1980s brought us the cassette. A pocket-sized record you could take with you anywhere. 2 albums on every 90-minute tape! Most importantly, the freedom to put the songs in the order you wanted was revelatory at the time. No longer were we beholden to the order of the tracks etched into the vinyl - although the irony that it has come back to hold major sway today with hardcore audiophiles is definitely not lost on me.
We could make our own mix tapes, record songs off the radio, all the things you can do today in seconds with a computer. Then, if you were filling up a 90-minute tape… it took probably twice the amount of time if you wanted to make up a mix of songs from different LPs or 45s. Pausing the tape after each song, switching the platters, putting the needle down (gently!) and only pushing “pause” again after the needle had dropped.
Another odd admission: used to love scouring record stores not just for vinyl and CDs, but for unusual off-brands of blank tapes. Mainly just for the variety of different-looking cassettes. To be sure, Maxel XL-IIs were the most often used brand simply due to access and their low failure rate.
Then around 1985, the compact disc hit stores. No more needles - we’re playing with lasers! Hot damn! This will be the future. You could program the player itself to play the tracks in your favorite order, awesome!! Goodbye to picking up and putting the needle down. Amazingly clear. No more scratched vinyl! No more skipping! Well, unless you got your CD dirty. Or cracked. Or covered in fingerprints. Since the players were so expensive, we continued making our tapes, but from our new compact discs instead of the vinyl platters. The tapes were still portable and affordable to be taken anywhere, so they lingered into the 1990s.
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This ritual was exacting and critical, and had to be followed in order to get what audiophiles now refer to as a “needle drop” on the LP’s first play, when it should be in its most pristine condition.
1) With scissors or x-acto knife, carefully slit the plastic wrap on the side of the sleeve with the opening. Do not remove plastic wrap!
NOTE: This was done to leave the plastic wrap on the sleeve to protect the cardboard from wear and tear. Some collectors disagree with this practice, but as a kid my small collection of albums (nearly everything from the ’70s NYC trip) was ruined by proximity to a humidifier. The cardboard got damp enough that the sleeves were sticking to the discs. The only ones that survived still had the wrap on.
2) Take out the inner sleeve.
3) Remove the LP, holding only by the edges.
4) Put it on the turntable.
5) Clean it with Discwasher cleaner & pad; yes, even though it was the first time - you’d be surprised at how much dirt can be on a brand new record.
6) Clean needle from back to front with special needle cleaner that comes with faux mascara brush.
7) Unwrap a fresh Maxell XL-II chrome cassette, or the brand of your choice. TDK, Denon, Fuji, Sony, Scotch, BASF, JVC, Memorex, whatever.
8) Wind the side A reel past the leader (that blank bit at the beginning).
9) Pop it in the tape deck, press “pause” and “record.”
10) Put the needle on the record in the middle of a random song, let it play.
11) Adjust recording input level accordingly to achieve tape saturation without overload.
12) Raise needle again, reset to start of LP.
13) Once needle has hit vinyl, press “pause” and begin recording.
14) Go back and repeat steps 8-13 for LP side 2.
15) Once side 2 is complete, fill up remainder of tape side with favorite song(s) from LP.
It was indeed a complicated ritual. if someone from the future had shown me iTunes back then, it probably would’ve made my head explode. Nick Hornby explained the mix tape rules exceedingly well in “High Fidelity,” and Cusack delivered them righteously in the film.