Defining a generation: The audio cassette turns 50 today

By on September 13, 2013, 1:30 PM

The audio cassette is now officially “over the hill” as it was 50 years ago today when the format launched at Philips' headquarters in Amsterdam. Originally designed to replace reel-to-reel tape for dictation, the audio cassette ultimately became a household staple for those that grew up in the 80s.

Tucked snugly between the days of the 8-track and the compact disc, the audio cassette helped to define a generation. Outstanding audio quality was never attributed to cassettes – in fact, they degraded in quality the more you listened to them and it wasn’t uncommon for a cassette player to “eat” your tape.

A number of advancements like Dolby noise reduction, better magnetic oxides and higher-quality tape players did help to make matters a bit better but it still wasn’t enough by most standards. So then, what was so great about cassettes? One word – versatility.

Back in the 80s, you couldn’t just hop online and craft a playlist of your favorite songs. Instead, you’d have to sit by your stereo system and manually record songs from the radio. This required a bit of precision, patience and a lot of free time but as someone that did it countless times, I can attest that it was well worth it.

Cassettes have long since given way to digital media but they aren’t completely dead. That’s right, some metal bands and “hipsters” are attempting to revive the platform although it’s not likely to reach the level of success enjoyed in the 80s.

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