In 2009, I hadn’t listened to cassettes since buying my first CD player in the 80s. I bought a Nakamichi 500 deck that year and hauled out all of my old cassettes. I listened to it on and off until it finally broke in 2015 or so. Haven’t listened to a cassette since.
After writing about seeing the music yesterday, I’ve been feeling nolstagic about that cool Nakamichi cassette deck and listening to tapes.
And to be clear, this is just nostalgia. Cassette tapes mostly sound like shit.
Sure, you can buy a great deck, quality tapes, record music on them, and then play them back on that same deck and it’ll sound okay. But that’s not what I do. I listen to cassettes I bought in the 1970s and played a thousand times since and that have been sitting in a box for 25 years. Those sound like shit.
Still, it’s fun. I like that I can take one out of the player and when I put it back in it’ll continue from where I left off. Cassettes were great for audiobooks for the same reason (they were, after all, called “books on tape”).
I remember being able to find a specific track simply by watching how much tape was left on one of the spools. I didn’t have a fancy deck that automatically detected the gaps between songs until quite late.
And of course there’s the magic tape-tensioning-with-a-pencil trick.
I don’t miss the days sitting next to the radio with my portable cassette player, blank tape queued up, finger on the Record button, waiting for the DJ to play the song I called in on the phone and requested like three hours ago.
But I do sometimes miss listening to my old cassettes, thinking about the past.