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Audio Cassette Tapes

audio cassette tapes on wooden background

History of the Audio Cassette Tape:

The Cassette Tape, or Compact Cassette,  was first developed by the Philips company in 1962 in Belgium. Philips released the invention to Europe at the Berlin Radio Show on August 30, 1963; the invention was released in the United States in November of next year.



The Compact Cassette was so revolutionary because it gave anyone the ability to record tracks of audio by themselves. Before the Compact Cassette, reel-to-reel audio technology was difficult to use and required training, which left its use mostly to professionals in radio. When the cassette tape came on the scene, it was revolutionary for this reason. Not only were your favorite audio tracks available, but you could create your own mixtape to give to a friend or a sweetheart.

When Sony’s Walkman came onto the scene, this made Philips’ cassette tape success skyrocket. The Walkman gave people of all ages the ability to listen to their favorite music on the go - no more waiting for the car or for your stereo at home. These two inventions went hand in hand.



The Compact Cassette really hit its peak in the 1980’s, but was quickly surpassed in the 90’s by compact disc sales. By the early 2000’s, cassette tapes had become almost nonexistent, with more album releases occurring solely on vinyl or CD.

Today, we are witnessing a slight comeback of the cassette tape. Even some of the biggest artists in the industry are releasing albums on cassette, along with the usual formats of CD and vinyl. The popular clothing store Urban Outfitters stocks cassette tapes on its shelves for customers to browse and buy, just like in the 1980’s. Although we are seeing the trend coming back, the revival is miniscule and will probably not gain as much monetary value as other more popular audio formats. The Compact Cassette was a revolutionary technology that allowed us to record in our own homes and, paired with the walkman, allowed us to take music on the go. But just like everything else in history, it had its time, and now it lives in the past as a memory that gives us nostalgia for big hair and leg warmers.




Conversion Options for Audio Cassette Tapes:


There are a couple of ways to transfer cassette tapes to your computer. The first way is to play the cassette on some sort of stereo and record the audio on some sort of digital device. You could use a cell phone, computer microphone, or a fancier studio setup. This solution isn’t great, because the quality will leave a lot to be desired. The other option is to purchase a tape digitizer and rip the cassettes directly onto your computer. Both methods are time consuming, and the final digitized version of your cassettes will just be one big, long string of un-chopped audio.

Or, as always, you can leave it to the professionals to get the job done!



FAQ's for Audio Cassette Tapes:


Q: How long do cassette tapes last?

A: It depends. Like most home media, cassettes last longer if you store them properly. Ideally, you want to store them in a cool, dry spot without much sunlight or magnetic exposure. In perfect conditions, cassette tapes will last around 10 to 30 years, depending on the quality and brand of cassette. If you play the cassette more often, the lifespan can be shorter. If you treat them badly or have a poorly conditioned cassette player, you’re probably shortening the lifespan again.


Q: How do you take care of cassette tapes?

A: The best thing to do is keep them in their cases, in a dry place, and away from electronics. You especially want to keep your cell phone away from them. Since cassettes work by storing information a magnetized strip of tape, you want to reduce exposure to that fragile tape as much as possible. As with all magnetized stuff, its strength decreases over time. That means your Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio album on cassette probably won’t last too much longer.


Q: When did CDs replace cassette tapes?

A: The first commercial CD was produced way back in 1982, but it took awhile for them to really catch on. Partly because tapes were better for car rides (CDs skipped too much) and vinyl is the unquestioned leader in audio format for the home, CDs didn’t truly take off until around the mid 1990s. By then, CD player technology improved, CD pricing came down, and accessibility went up. According to some, 1991 is the exact year that CD sales overtook cassettes. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but it’s probably not too far off.


Q: Do cassette tapes degrade?

A: Yes, cassette tapes degrade--and probably sooner than you’d think. The magnetic tape that cassettes use lasts around 10-30 years depending on quality and brand. The way that tapes work is basically the same concept as vinyl records, but instead of a needle moving in grooves, the magnetic strip of the tape causes a receiver to vibrate, and that creates sound. If you remember from high school science class, magnetism isn’t permanent. In the case of cassettes, that magnetic charge will probably be gone sooner rather than later.



How to Store Audio Cassette Tapes: