This Week in Vintage Technology: The Compact Cassette

RCA_Quarter_Inch_Tape_Cartridge_2AOne of my fondest memories as a child was listening to the Earth, Wind & Fire album on cassette with my mother on the car ride home. The cassette’s magnetic tape actually dates back all the way back to the early 1900’s. The Magnetophon would be the first audio device for public release, back in 1935, to use magnetic tape. It was considered to be quite the upgrade from the other current audio technology.

Until I wrote this blog I actually never took notice of the word “compact” in compact cassette. The original cassette was not nearly as compact and at 5’’ x 7’’ in size, it’s easy to see why. It was released in 1958, but ended up a commercial failure; it wouldn’t be until 1962 when the compact cassette was finally released by Philips. Sony had a huge impact on the cassette as well, advising Philips to license it for free, which ultimately lead to its success.

The compact cassette is gone sadly, but the appreciation for the Walkman remains. The Walkman has even been reintroduced in recent years. Sadly, it only takes digital formatting. All the cool things you could do with cassette tapes like pull out the magnetic tape are just memories at this point. Growing children will never get to experience this joy. Maybe their parents will one day sit them down and tell them a story of a time before iPods & Spotify.