The History of the Audio Cassette, A Timeline
The History of the Audio Cassette, A Timeline
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The History of the Audio Cassette, A Timeline

By Christian Roemer

The audio cassette, better known as the compact cassette, was a marvel of modern science with its introduction in 1968. Music hardware was large and unwieldy before tapes looking at you reel-to-reel tape (R2R), aka the Mickey Mouse player due to its double tape reels looking like the Disney rodent’s iconic ears. That’s why they (cassette tapes) reigned supreme for the better part of three decades before CDs – the shiny new tech on the block – dethroned them.


At their release, cassette tapes were initially used for home recordings, but their better recording quality led them to be the medium du jour for pretty much all audio moving forward. They were much smaller than 8-tracks, harder to damage than LPs, and CDs didn’t exist yet, so they had a lot going for them. Those qualities made cassettes perfect for audiophiles both at home and the road thanks to portable tape players like the Sony Walkman.


However, the invention and proliferation of audio cassettes were almost as quick as their sad demise. Here’s a quick run-down of the rapid rise, and equally swift decline of cassette tapes.



Reel-to-reel recording tapes were invented. They were large and unwieldy, and mainly used by professional recording studios and radio stations. Seriously though, R2R tapes and players were LARGE, like fill up an entire desk large. There’s no wonder the cassette tape was well received.



The first reversible cassette tape is invented and released by RCA. It was closer to the size of a video cassette, and it never really caught on. But, progress was being made as technology was getting better.



Philips invented the first compact cassettes for audio storage. Ultimately, the Philips cassette became the standard format due to their licensing the technology to other companies for free.



First home recorders utilizing compact cassette technology were released in the United States. Cue the original mixtape!



First music albums released on the cassette format. The first artists included Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt, and Johnny Mathis. Their release just so happened to coincide with Beatlemania. Eat your heart out John, Paul, George and Ringo.


Mid 1970s

Cassette Decks were introduced to cars, replacing the previous 8 track playersFinally, could pick up on-the-go right where you left off at home.



Sony rele
ased the Walkman – a portable music player that revolutionized the way that people consumed music on the go. It was like having a personal soundtrack to your life for the first time.



Cassettes finally lose the music fidelity battle to CDs and begin slowly disappearing into obscurity. It was a parallel story for the cassette’s brother, the VHS, which was losing its own war against the similarly disc-shaped DVD.



Jadakiss “The Last Kiss” is the last major label release on cassetteFitting song title for the classic music media’s swan song.



Cassette tapes make a resurgence thanks to the help from hipsters, audiophiles and pure nostalgists. Similar to vinyl, although not near as popular, the cassette tape has slowly gained a niche following over the last few years with new cassettes releases by today’s most popular artists.


So there you have it! The compact cassette lived a relatively short yet impactful life. Even though nobody uses them much anymore, aside from their recent resurgence, things like cassette decks in cars and the Walkman changed the way that people listen to music forever.


Do you have some old cassettes, bootlegs or home recordings you’d like to save? Send them to us and we’ll digitize them, bringing your classic mixtapes into the 21st century.


Source: Thanks Wikipedia.

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