When was the last time you listened to a cassette tape? Allow me to pay tribute to the humble music cassette, my faithful musical companion for a large chunk of my life.
I was cleaning out a drawer at home the other day and came across a huge stack of old cassette tapes. Remember those? Before you could burn a CD or download a song off the internet and way before the invention of the iPod and mp3 players, we had cassette tapes. CDs were around, yes, but back in 1990s if you wanted to copy a CD, or record that song you really liked off the radio, you had to put it on a tape.
Many of us have old cassette tapes, if not lying around somewhere, then packed away in some cabinet. With the rapid advancement in technology, cassette tapes have become nearly extinct. This is because there are more convenient, portable and user-friendly data storage devices such as CDs, Ipods and flash disks out there. This has compelled the majority of us to shift from using cassette players to more modern listening methods. The developments and installation of new music systems have not made things easier for cassette tape lovers.
You may have a collection of cassette tapes that contain music and recordings that you consider sentimental. This include the rock and roll music of the Beetles, the music of the late seventies and eighties. All these cassettes played a big part in my growing up. They’d travelled to distant shores with me in my walkman and formed the backdrop to parties, good times and bad.
Does anybody still own a cassette tape deck, or a cassette tape for that matter? They are getting very hard to find. You’ll have a better chance of finding a VHS, CD, or even vinyl record player before you find a cassette. It is ironic because cassettes were around for longer than any of those other types of media (except for vinyl records) and magnetic tape is still being used in production studios all over the world.
Today’s kids probably don’t know about these tapes anymore. But i am sure many of us (80’s to 90’s kids and teens) could still remember those days when you were obsessed with squeezing as many songs as possible into one cassette. Or tuning in to your favourite radio station and ready the blank cassette tape and the recorder. Once your favourite song is about to play, your fingers were trigger happy to press “record” and “play” at the same time.
Were you taking cassettes with you to listen to your Walkman? What about the “bad days” when your heart would skip a bit when a cassette tape got chewed up by the cassette player or ‘boombox’? Way back in the day, when a cassette ribbon ripped, that meant the end to the tape. And there goes your collection.
I still clung unto the notion of CDs (and still do) - whereas cassette tapes have become a memory of yesteryears. Fun to own, but hardly pleasing to the sensitive ears of today.
Cassettes came out after the reign of vinyl records.
These cassette tapes may just be something to hang on to rather than use, but i can certainly see why many would go back to an old format just for the memories and the pride of knowing that you aren’t afraid to move backwards in time. Retro fads happen all the time – when i was a kid, yoyos were cool for about one year. I suspect that they will return in less than 10 years' time. Perhaps we all need a break from all of the digital gadgets that fill our lives. Old technology is still technology.
So here’s to paying a short tribute to the awesome days of cassette tapes. They are nostalgic figures now…but they will always be a big part of our past...and our lives.
A freelance Singapore-based travel photographer / photojournalist. I seek the extraordinary, but finds beauty in the everyday. Life is interesting, capture it.
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