In the 2020s, is it considered a crisis if your cassette deck dies?
Next question: Do people have cassette decks anymore?
Next question: Does anyone remember what a cassette is?
In the Peterson household, it was a crisis a month ago when our 40-year-old dual-cassette deck gave up the ghost and refused to play anything from our collection of some 200 tapes without sounding like it had a stuttering problem.
And when it died, a part of my past died with it. This is the story of Jurassic Scott, who roamed the earth in the analog era. Back then, we lauded tapes as the way of the future. Away with you, vinyl records, with your cumbersome size and annoying scratchability! Tapes were portable and you could record your own!
In the 1970s, having a cassette deck was cutting edge hi-fi technology. By the time I got my first dual-cassette deck in the 1980s, I thought I was on top of the technology world. I might not have been a Pioneer, but my tape deck was. It was another 10 years before I got the first tape deck for my car that was not an 8-track player. I was ahead of my time.
I recorded every album I could get my hands on and bought dozens more. And then came CDs, then digital recording and then streaming and now obsolescence. I still have one car that plays cassettes and it is 15 years old and heading toward extinction itself. New cars don’t even have CD players anymore.
So what do I do with all these tapes? I have all these cassettes with everything from Mitch Miller to The Who and from Acker Bilk to Dire Straits and from Nat King Cole to Natalie Cole. All of it would turn into a pile of plastic containers and magnetic ribbon if I did not act fast.
I did some research online and found that it isn’t easy to get a quality cassette deck anymore. It’s hard to find any, for starters. Half of the decks on Amazon have names that sound like the Chinese made them up to trick Americans. (Is COVID a real brand name?) I finally found one that was semi-affordable and my wife looked at me with that look that says this:
“Sure, you can squander our hard-earned money on this, but just remember how many dozens of outfits I am going to get to buy to make up the equivalent to that cassette-deck purchase without you uttering a peep of complaints. It will take you years to regain that bargaining power.”
But I looked at the rows of cassettes sitting on the shelf; each one is a story, a memory, a journey waiting for me to retake it. And I knuckled under and bought the new deck, which comes complete with an adapter that will allow me to upload all of my music to a computer and save it digitally. Now that is the way of the future!
And then I read an article online that said that in the first half of this year, vinyl actually outsold CDs for the first time since the 1980s. How could vinyl, one of the most inferior forms of storing music ever created, suddenly be staging a comeback?
I told that to my niece in California and she said that, believe it or not, cassettes are coming back out there now. Cassettes are the new vinyl.
And there you go, Jurassic Scott! You’re cutting edge again. If you can live life enough, Mr. Music-saurus, you can see history repeat itself. And that is music to my ears.
P.S. When the Kohl’s bill comes due with my wife’s new wardrobe, I will just put on my headphones and forget it every happened.