Swindon AdvertiserI can’t wait to fast forward to Christmas (From Swindon Advertiser)

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Graham Carter column: I can’t wait to fast forward to Christmas

Swindon Advertiser: I can’t wait to fast forward to Christmas I can’t wait to fast forward to Christmas

This week I’d like us all to think about the loss of the good old cassette tape. But first let’s… um… rewind a little.

Whereas our fathers and older brothers came from Planet Vinyl and our children and grandchildren were born into the CD and digital era, my young adult life was lived in the cassette age.

Time was divided into C-60s and C-90s, and one of the reasons we loved the technology was because it was made to feel futuristic by being unfathomable.

I’ve never met anyone, for instance, who could tell me what BASF or TDK is supposed to stand for, and if there was any difference in ferro oxide, chrome or chromdioxid tapes – either from each other or from bogstandard ones – then it was lost on me.

Even more baffling was Dolby, the invention that stopped your tape player from hissing.

All these years I’ve been trying to work out why you had to have a switch to flip for this – as if some people might prefer to turn off the Dolby so they could hear the hissing. That would be like having a switch on your car to choose round wheels instead of square ones.

Neither did I ever find out why all tapes had a blank bit at the front (which you always had to wind past with a pencil before starting recording) rather than starting on recordable tape.

The main appeal of cassette tapes was they were a strike for freedom.

Whereas records and later CDs had tracks forced on you by artists and record companies, with a tape you were free to tailor your own playlist – an idea so radical that they had to virtually invent a new word to describe it: the compilation.

And unlike those cheap and cheerful records that preceded the cassette – usually made by Ronco and K-Tel – which forced somebody else’s selection on you, cassette tapes left you free to make your own choices and come up with your own wacky combinations.

Of course there were drawbacks, especially the bother of trying to skip a track or rewinding to listen again to the same song instantly, but that didn’t matter so much because you were the person who chose the playlist in the first place.

Although there is a wave of nostalgia for vinyl, cassettes are more easily forgotten, but we shouldn’t forget that in 1983 sales of albums on cassette outstripped sales on vinyl for the first time, and it remained the favourite medium until 1991, when the CD took over.

And remember that’s just for pre-recorded cassette albums. Blank ones that you could record on were where the real joy was, and they were still popular after CDs became available.

I am reminded of all this because last week I discovered an old compilation cassette in a drawer. I recognised it instantly as one from my courting days. My wife had a little Ford Fiesta and we spent hours going off for trips in that, armed with a glove-compartment full of tapes we had made up and enjoyed listening to together.

So my first thought on finding the cassette again was to put it on and see what was on it, and what memories it brought back.

But it quickly dawned on me – we have nothing to play it on. The car stereo will play CDs or run off an iPod, and we have computers and other gadgets that will play digital recordings in a variety of ways, but not tapes.

First typewriters and now this. So you’ll never guess what I’ve asked Father Christmas for this year.

Comments (7)

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11:22am Mon 10 Dec 12

Bobfm , says...

You can buy a gizmo that converts tapes to cd or mp3
You can buy a gizmo that converts tapes to cd or mp3 Bobfm ,
  • Score: 0

11:39am Mon 10 Dec 12

The Real Librarian says...

The music shop on Farringdon road sells retro hifi equipment.

Enjoy
The music shop on Farringdon road sells retro hifi equipment. Enjoy The Real Librarian
  • Score: 0

11:53am Mon 10 Dec 12

PaulD says...

you could always get yourself nicked, then ask the police if you can use their tape machine after your interview
you could always get yourself nicked, then ask the police if you can use their tape machine after your interview PaulD
  • Score: 0

3:52pm Mon 10 Dec 12

Morsey says...

I still use audio cassettes and floppy disks ... they work fine, they are familiar and simple, they are not exactly timeless, but new technology is all very well, though often gimmick firstly, and really that much better ... I don't really know? I have never owned an MP3, don't truthfully know much about them?

Take for example, if you write stories, plays etc. and you began in the nineties, saving your work on floppies ... it's a nightmare as Office this and office that, makes the way you have saved out of date time after time! Very frustrating.

The good thing about the good old cassette tape is that I can still record the music I play and sing in my little studio, okay the spare bedroom, in the same way as I did in the early eighties ... not fantastic recording kit, but functional and "As cheap as chips" as DD would say!
I still use audio cassettes and floppy disks ... they work fine, they are familiar and simple, they are not exactly timeless, but new technology is all very well, though often gimmick firstly, and really that much better ... I don't really know? I have never owned an MP3, don't truthfully know much about them? Take for example, if you write stories, plays etc. and you began in the nineties, saving your work on floppies ... it's a nightmare as Office this and office that, makes the way you have saved out of date time after time! Very frustrating. The good thing about the good old cassette tape is that I can still record the music I play and sing in my little studio, okay the spare bedroom, in the same way as I did in the early eighties ... not fantastic recording kit, but functional and "As cheap as chips" as DD would say! Morsey
  • Score: 0

7:18pm Mon 10 Dec 12

Empty Car Park says...

cassette tapes were also a bit more durable than CDs when played in a car.
As long as you didn't leave them getting cooked by the sun.

You could also put a lot more tracks on them

happy days
cassette tapes were also a bit more durable than CDs when played in a car. As long as you didn't leave them getting cooked by the sun. You could also put a lot more tracks on them happy days Empty Car Park
  • Score: 0

8:18pm Mon 10 Dec 12

Localboy86 says...

Save it to a cloud it's 2012
Save it to a cloud it's 2012 Localboy86
  • Score: 0

10:02am Wed 12 Dec 12

Morsey says...

Ah yes, but how long before that is also ditched for another gimmick, I wonder?
Ah yes, but how long before that is also ditched for another gimmick, I wonder? Morsey
  • Score: 0

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