Saturday, May 12, 2007

Cassettes won't listen

The news that Currys are to stop selling cassettes and their decks shouldn't have led to as much nostalgia-driven press as it did - after all, last time we were in one of their stores it was difficult enough to find a media centre that featured a CD player, and we can't recall the last time we saw a cassette for sale that wasn't in a charity shop or a pack of Maxell 4xC90s. Notice in that piece the assertion that, having withstood CDs and seen off MiniDiscs and the like, it's mp3 players that are the cause of its downfall.

Even so, the downturn in the humble cassette's fortunes in the face of digital technology cannot pass without comment. They were, of course, clunky things on which it was impossible to gauge length of time passed by, and as well as the oft-experienced 'hungry cartoon snake' sound that could only mean the tape was wrapping itself round the left hand spool and you'd need to locate a pencil urgently, we can't have been alone in experiencing the physically implausible phenomena of the tape then somehow coming out from between one of the intricate set of holes on the bottom without breaking the plastic. The cases were far easier to break the connective tabs off than on CD cases too.

Even then, though, starved of the glamour of vinyl and overtaken by the white hot heat of aluminium coated optical disc, there was something homely about the cassette. We're not among those who claim the sound quality was 'warmer' because, unlike analogue recording, it patently wasn't. But they didn't take up a lot of space (consider the loose tape against the jewel case), were the perfect medium for car stereos, were far easier, as a shelf in our bedroom will concur, to tape off the radio with and lent themselves to the pre-filesharing borderline illegality-riven mysteries of 'tape to tape' technology which meant you could get two albums onto one C90 from a mate (we had The Stone Roses and Sgt Pepper on one). Audio books are better on cassette. You can fit more onto them than a CDR. Nobody refers to mix CDs without sounding awkward. Spare cases were easier to locate. Kids are missing all this now with their quick digitally soulless technology.

Where all the loose tape you see in country hedgerows and occasionally by the side of roads (a couple of months ago we saw a car trailing a massive length of tape from its exhaust) comes from we have no idea, though.

2 comments:

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