Soon after it arrived on the scene, this piece of modern audio technology was the must-have item of its time. With superior audio quality and the ability to take your music on the go while jogging, on the beach or anywhere outdoors, it quickly became a best seller. No, we’re not talking about Ipod, but the Sony Walkman Cassette Player which hit the market almost 35 years ago in 1979.
But like the rotary phone, today’s gadgets make this beloved mobile music player a relic. Something to be marveled at and puzzled over by the current generation of kids raised on digital music, streaming radio channels and YouTube concerts.
Just how would today’s kids react when shown them a cassette tape with no speakers?
Here are a few things you might not have known about the Cassette Tape.
How It Began
The compact cassette (aka. cassette tape) was originally developed and released by Philips in 1962 in Hasselt, Belgium as an attempt to develop a new standard in audio storage. This replaced reel-to-reel recorders that were inefficient and expensive to use. By inventing the cassette tape, it allowed anyone to make recordings without high technical skills that were needed for the reel-to-reel.
Era of Mass Adoption
Although Philips was in competition at the time with other companies, facing pressure from Sony, the decision to license the invention for free allowed it to emerge as a leader. Soon, cassette tapes were mass produced everywhere in Hanover, Germany the following year. In late 1965, the cassette tapes had pre-recorded content called musicassettes (M.C. for short) and became mainstream in the U.S in 1966. By 1968, over 2.4 million players had been sold.
So Why Was It So Popular?
On its initial release, the cassette tape was chunky and had low sound quality. Its purpose was for recording voices and dictation, but it soon took a turn for the better. The technology improved very quickly and soon it became the go-to method for recording because of its high quality and features such as noise reduction and the development of new tape formats. This growth of technology adaption was aided by Sony’s Walkman that made music portable for the average person for the first time. Pocket recorders were also invented around the time, where you could record anything by pressing a button in the recorder.
What Goes Up Must Go Down…(The Fall)
The cassette tape peaked in popularity by the late 1980s, where the market had drastically dropped in both Europe and North America. This was due to a new technology called compact discs (CDs for short) that became popular in the 1990s. By 2001, cassettes had pretty much dropped out for the race as its market share was less than 5%. The following year, U.S music companies had stopped producing them. What is interesting is that blank cassette tapes are still being made and sold today.