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and you could always use a pencil to rewind one!
February 18, 2012 9:05 PM   Subscribe

Take a stroll down Memorex Lane and relive those golden days of yore at Project C-90: An Ultimate Audiotape Guide. Peruse their insanely exhaustive galleries of the Compact Cassettes you used to listen to your Hall and Oates or your Led Zeppelin or your hip hop mixes on, the Microcassettes you once played back to catch that all-important message from your mother, your girlfriend, boyfriend or ex, and the Minicassettes, which you probably never used at all.
posted by flapjax at midnite (55 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
I bought so many TDKs growing up. Just browsing down this page I recognize most of them. I was killing the music industry with my share of home taping.

I saw some macro lately, probably on reddit, that was a pencil and a cassette tape with the caption, "You're young if you don't know how these two things go together." Felt old, also felt some nostalgia for the good ol' mixtape. Always liked making those better than CDs.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:14 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


“Because everything that flows from out my larynx
Takes years of experience and bottles of Beck's
I cannot seem to recollect the time I didn't have sex
Is it real or is it Memorex?

posted by koeselitz at 9:19 PM on February 18, 2012


I just want trhough the list of copact cassettes. They don't have Maxell listed? FAIL
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 9:22 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sex

Drugs
posted by mintcake! at 9:28 PM on February 18, 2012


TDK SA-90 all the way. Anything less in my dual deck was blasphemy.
posted by GamblingBlues at 9:35 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Oh my god, New Wave Memorex! These had awful sound quality and maddening labels, but they were cheap, which made them handy when you were desperate to tape as much stuff as possible to take on a roadtrip to grandma's the next day.
posted by scody at 9:35 PM on February 18, 2012


They don't have Maxell listed?

You want the 'Hitachi - Lo-D - Maxell' listing.
posted by mintcake! at 9:36 PM on February 18, 2012


I remember taping my Clash and Sex Pistols albums to a regular cassette rather than the pricier chromium dioxide with the reasoning that they wouldn't benefit as much from the higher fidelity.

Now the choice would be FLAC or 320 KB MP3.

sigh...
posted by Trurl at 9:40 PM on February 18, 2012


Yeah, Maxell is the first thing I looked for. Must be some sort of mistake, as they were the market leaders, along with TDK. On preview: thanks mintcake; they need to fix that, either dual list it or rename it or something.

Back in the 80's in rural/suburban NJ, I used to sell Maxell's in high school. I'd borrow Mom's car for an afternoon "errand", haul ass down Route 22 to the Holland Tunnel and Canal Street (lower Manhattan), buy a couple cases of the Maxell XL-II blanks (actually, XL-II-S I think) and rush back home. Then I'd sell them singly to the spoiled rich kids at my school. Sold at huge markup -- I vaguely recall that I was buying them at $1.25 and selling at $3. I got a big kick out of how shocked the prospective customer heard the price, and then still paid it.

I still have a cassette case full of them, with neatly labeled dubs of various obvious cock rock albums.
posted by intermod at 9:45 PM on February 18, 2012


I remember taping my Clash and Sex Pistols albums to a regular cassette rather than the pricier chromium dioxide with the reasoning that they wouldn't benefit as much from the higher fidelity.

Similarly, I first taped the Sex Pistols on a regular cassette with the use of a tape recorder that I had to prop up in front of the stereo, because my first stereo had only an 8-track built in. At one point I accidentally knocked over the tape recorder, so for years I listened to the song "No Feelings" with a muffled crash right in the middle of one of the verses. Somehow this never seemed inappropriate.
posted by scody at 9:48 PM on February 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I taped episodes of /You Can't Do That On Television/ and /Aeon Flux/ on microcasette. -Chronophasia- is very odd only in audio.
posted by oonh at 9:52 PM on February 18, 2012


Oh my god, New Wave Memorex!

I'm right there with you, scody, except for me it was the Memorex dBS 90. A later wave of '80s nouveau. The Miami Vice of cassettes, maybe?
posted by gompa at 9:55 PM on February 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


Came here to say TDK SA-90. Saw it had already happened. Carry on.
posted by hippybear at 9:59 PM on February 18, 2012


Man - I had so many various different kinds, that I ended up recognizing the various albums based on the type of tape. I don't know if I ever actually owned a whole stack of all the same kind (at least not until the 90s).

The old red and black that I taped Appetite for Destruction onto. Or the blank white cassette with DRI and Spermbirds. The black and grey Dead Kennedys. The clear Metallica tape.

Good times. It's been far too many years, and that damned flood destroyed my cassette collection, so hell if I can remember (or ever see, again) what brand they were. But such fond memories of my collection.
posted by symbioid at 10:20 PM on February 18, 2012


My first mix tape received was at age 14 or 15 and it was a compilation of "Not the 9 O clock News".

TDK. You could go down to the music store and they'd fill it up with vinyl albums of your choosing. They got wet in a thunderstorm/flooding in 199(5?) but I think I still have them somewhere..
posted by infini at 10:29 PM on February 18, 2012


(Feels an odd connection to symbioid for "that flood that killed the cassette collection" - looks hopefully at flapjax for a song )
posted by infini at 10:30 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


looks hopefully at flapjax for a song

I'll see what I can do for you, infini. Gotta go out right now, though.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 10:36 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


give your digital music that mix-tape vibe - aircassette
posted by beige at 10:57 PM on February 18, 2012


that should have been - aircassette
posted by beige at 10:59 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Feels an odd connection to symbioid for "that flood that killed the cassette collection" - looks hopefully at flapjax for a song

C30 - C60 - C90 - Go!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:03 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The DRM that killed the Video Colleciton, PeterMcDermott?
posted by symbioid at 11:07 PM on February 18, 2012


"Not available in your country" *sigh*
posted by symbioid at 11:07 PM on February 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Video killed the radio star... *in nostalgic tone of voice*
posted by infini at 11:13 PM on February 18, 2012


Boy what a site. This is total porn for me.
posted by ReeMonster at 11:19 PM on February 18, 2012


TDK SA-90

Eww, what? Denon HD8, please! Maxell XLIIS in a pinch!
posted by mykescipark at 11:52 PM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I looked for maxell too. Used to put 2 albums on a 120 minute tape for the Walkman. Later on, made high fidelity mix tapes with a 5 disc changer and a component cassette deck from goodwill. This was after mp3s existed but my friends and I had old cars with cassette decks. Making a mix tape was a full afternoon activity. You had to swap around disks and then actually play through the songs to get them on the tape. It made you put more thought into the track list.
posted by scose at 12:36 AM on February 19, 2012


When I started taping each night's John Peel show in the 70s, I got through quite a few of these. By the 80s I'd graduated to TDK.
posted by Prince Lazy I at 1:16 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Very soothing pages to look at.

The TDK page reminds me of the photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher - that mix of neglectednostalgia with an extreme formalism.

Got to love the home page intro as well:

"The authors' only message is just to give a visitor something interesting to look at."
posted by colie at 2:25 AM on February 19, 2012


I worked for Sony in the early nineties and used to use my employee discounts to pick up ten-packs of premium 90-minute cassettes. It is odd to think that one of those purchases was probably the last time I would ever buy an audio cassette, and I had no idea at the time. To have a format which was ubiquitous for the first twenty years of my life disappear so thoroughly from the ensuing twenty years is odd. I wonder if the stack of 50 CD-RWs I bought a few years ago will ever get used up...

The thing about mixtaped, as mentioned above, was the degree of thoughtfulness involved. I recall doing the math on scrap paper to see why songs could fit in the remaining n minutes and n seconds at the end of the album that mostly filled up a side. And because each cassette took up some physical space, a long trip meant you had to ponder carefully what to bring. My mp3 player cares not if it holds a dozen songs ir five thousand. But twenty years ago today I was on a backpacking trip in North Africa and you better believe the half-dozen cassettes in my bag were chosen with care. To this day, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks sounds like Cairo to me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:44 AM on February 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


I remember buying Maxell XLIIS cassettes by the box (there were, what, 10 or 12 to a box?) to get the lower per-cassette price. One time there was a promotional offer, something like buy two boxes and get a maxell t-shirt. It's at least 25 years later and I still have that shirt. And it still says: maxell - good for your heads.
posted by fikri at 2:50 AM on February 19, 2012


There is one realm where itty bitty cassettes still live on: transcription. Some doctors simply cannot give up their pocket recorders, don't trust digital systems for whatever reason, and so persist on dictating onto tired old cassettes. In some cases the tapes are so worn it's tough to get any useful information off of them at all, and it's getting increasingly difficult to buy new ones. Still, the doctors cling to those old recorders for dear life, regardless of how muffled the recordings. It's weird and frustrating.
posted by kinnakeet at 3:15 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


looks hopefully at flapjax for a song

OK, infini, I'm back home now, and have a humble offering...

there came torrential rains
they fell from all direction
then came that mighty flood
killed my cassette collection
the classic rock, new wave and punk
the deluge took it all
the David Bowie and the Smiths
the Damned, the Cure, the Fall
all hip hop was submerged
the Wu Tang Clan was drenched
Chuck D and Flava Flav were soaked
the P.E. fist unclenched
the mix tapes all were drowned
i'd worked so hard on those
they'd vanished in the waters
like cocaine up Rick James' nose
so, gone was all my music
and what i did, you see,
was go and buy it all again
in brand new form: CD
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:29 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


You are already listed as friend, neighbour, kin and crush... can I add sweetheart or would Mrs midnite mind terribly much?
posted by infini at 3:55 AM on February 19, 2012


not that I'm complaining at all, but I'd add my creaky Rod and Billy and Sting and Elton in there as well, might as well ruin my rep completely...
posted by infini at 3:56 AM on February 19, 2012


The director of the tape documentary (in production) thanks you for this.
posted by jscott at 4:17 AM on February 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maxell XL-II S for me. My local electronics repair guru tweaked my Nakamichi deck to get the most performance from the tape. Hours upon hours spent making mix tapes from my albums and albums borrowed from friends. Good times.

Then, one night, while visiting my fiance, some slime smashes the window in my car and steals my box of said mixtapes. And only the box of mixtapes. I was gutted. I never had the drive to spend as much time making mixes after that.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:40 AM on February 19, 2012


I remember buying Maxell XLIIS cassettes by the box (there were, what, 10 or 12 to a box?)

10.

OR... As we used to think of those boxes, "Five more Grateful Dead Shows." ( There are 73 shows this year, so how many boxes should I buy... Shit, might as well just get 20 boxes and that should cover me for a while... )

The master cartons were 10 boxes of 10 each, IIRC, btw...
posted by mikelieman at 5:26 AM on February 19, 2012


And that was XLIIs for copy/trading/listening. Masters were on metal tape, 3 per show. ( Gotta have a spare... It comes in handy... Once at the Knick, They rolled into the 2nd set. And I had this tickle, so at the first break between songs, I drop in my spare... Wouldn't you know it, they THEN went 40 minutes before drums... A lot of people got burned by having to flip in the middle of that. But I got a good clean copy on one of the decks, and that my friends is a feeling you can't buy...
posted by mikelieman at 5:29 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone else remember the Forget Cassettes? Never could find their album...
posted by rebent at 5:55 AM on February 19, 2012


Holy shit that brought back memories... it's crazy how fast tapes disappeared once something marginally better -- the CD -- came along...
posted by ph00dz at 6:21 AM on February 19, 2012


I used to record a local radio show on those 120 minute tapes. They were hard to find and 120 minutes of cassette tape seemed to be the limit of what those little plastic gears could handle. I spent may a time painstakingly rewinding with a pencil. My car tape player ciuldn't handle the 120 minute tapes without eating them, so I'd edit the 120's on to a more manageable size with my awesome dual tape machine.

I had kind of forgotten the show I used to record. It introduced me to World Music and was an incredible mix of world, country, blues & whatever that found a home for a few years on local public radio. There were live shows and this just brought back a memory of my pre-school daughter dancing wildly in front of the stage to 3 Mustaphas 3.
And o making mixtapes.
Thanks!
posted by readery at 6:24 AM on February 19, 2012


Glad to see that Soundhog get a mention here. One I'd be glad to forget is Dindy, a supposedly Danish company that sold by mail order, had really nice packaging — but the oxide sloughed off like butter. Boo.

There was a custom cassette maker in DeCourcy's arcade. He'd spool any length of any brand of bulk tape into choices of cases, and had a bank of decks setup for dubbing demos. Given that the west end of Glasgow was churning out bands like crazy in the 1980s, I'm surprised he didn't just automatically post one of each to John Peel.

Tapes, for me, were for home computers. Discs weren't as popular in the UK, unless you were a swotty BBC B owner. Cheapo Computape C-15s were my staple; I had *hundreds* in their crappy 5-to-box open cases. For really special stuff, we used TDK 15s; I still have the one I sent to a magazine for my game listing which got published in '86. We'd experiment with "insane" bit rates; anything that would load twice or more would be a success. Chuckie Egg; 9600 baud; load from tape time: 9s. Eat it, suckers.
posted by scruss at 6:29 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


..and the Minicassettes, which you probably never used at all.

Minicasettes were never used for music, they were designed for voice recorders. I have a whole bunch of minicasettes but I have no way to play them back. These are recordings of early computer & peripheral repair training sessions from around 1979-1982 by Osborne, Corvus, Epson etc. and probably belong in a computer history museum. I'm not sure if I could even find a minicassette player on the used market anymore.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:34 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


GamblingBlues: "TDK SA-90 all the way. Anything less in my dual deck was blasphemy."

Buy a ten pack on sale and get a free carrying case. That was 20 LPs worth of music dubbed from your buddies' records for about $15!
posted by octothorpe at 7:14 AM on February 19, 2012


The best thing about this one was that you could push the tape into the space between that cushion and the shell, and it would stick there. That way you could record on the tape with it like that, and the recording would end up on the opposite side and backwards. We did the Twin Peaks Red Room trick when we were kids all the time. "Sometimes my arms bend backwards"

There were so many cool tape tricks. There was the trick where holding down the play button halfway made the engine go faster. I'm not sure the mechanical reasons behind this, but it seemed that most tape players behaved this way. Recording this way made slow voice, then playing that back fast made normal voice plus or minus...plus or minus quite a lot actually. You got this warblely sexless sounding creepy voice. Applying pressure to the driving gear with your finger while recording was another trick to mess with the speed in unexpected ways.
posted by Hubajube at 8:26 AM on February 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


charlie don't surf: “I'm not sure if I could even find a minicassette player on the used market anymore.”

Wonder of wonders, it appears that several companies still manufacture them. Here's one for only $14.

(Also, for any of you wondering, there are companies that still produce cassette players, too. Just google it. All those old tapes you have can still be played, if you really want to...)
posted by koeselitz at 8:46 AM on February 19, 2012


A little note in the history of copyright infringement is that the legit authorized pre-recorded music cassettes that were available from record companies at the time were usually of abysmally bad quality, made with high-speed dubbing and crude shells. An unauthorized copy from vinyl made with a TDK-SA on an average home stereo sounded vastly superior.
posted by ovvl at 9:49 AM on February 19, 2012


Wonder of wonders, it appears that several companies still manufacture them. Here's one for only $14.

Oh holy crap. I remember paying like $125 for my microcassette recorder, with fancy new features like voice activation and included a lapel mic, that was sometime around 1979. Accounting for inflation, that is about $370 in current dollars.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:01 AM on February 19, 2012


TDK SA-90 +1 from me. Just looking at the page of TDK cassettes was the most concentrated shot of nostalgia I've had this year. I bought a huge Hitachi ghetto blaster one summer, and for the longest time it was the centre of my audio life - tons of output options, too, so I ended up running the music for beach parties with a box of tapes and speakers hung from trees.

Let us not forget, those of us who were there, the joys of tape storage for our home computers. Cleaning off the oxide gunk from the tapeheads with cotton bud and isopropyl; aligning the head by ear; juggling volume, treble and bass; all to get to the end of a C15 load without error.

Just one more self-indulgent memory: many of the early cheap mono cassette recorders had a 3.5/2.5mm jack pair for stick microphones with a pause/record switch. I discovered that if you soldered a low-value wirewound pot to a lead with a 2.5mm plug, it acted as a very crude speed control. You could record yourself at a slow speed and then hear yourself hugely speeded up on playback, which was a hilarious trick with a £10 deck, but best of all you could slow stuff down. I won big: the local radio station had a phone-in competition in which you had to be the best at saying the "Taumatawhakatang..." bit from The Lone Ranger, by Quantum Jump. I recorded this off-air (oh, evil, evil) and then played it back veerrry sloowwly until i had it. Phoned in, won handily, picked up stack of promo albums (all awful) from radio station. Not only was I killing music, I was robbing the corpse. At age eleven.

Don't think I'm not proud.

And I can still say "Taumatawhakatangi...". Bet Mr I-Rowed-The-Pacific never managed that.
posted by Devonian at 11:17 AM on February 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's actually Memorex Drive, not Memorex Lane.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:00 PM on February 19, 2012


At some point about 7 years ago there was a site that featured images of cassette tapes. I happened to save a copy of all 547 of them, which I just used ImageMagick to mosaic into a giant image for your viewing pleasure (n.b. GIANT). If anyone is interested in the archive of individual images, let me know.
posted by Rhomboid at 1:37 PM on February 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


a giant image for your viewing pleasure (n.b. GIANT).

WE'RE NOT WORTHY! WE'RE NOT WORTHY!
posted by mikelieman at 4:20 PM on February 19, 2012


weird. I find these really beautiful to look at.
posted by spbmp at 8:57 PM on February 19, 2012


I always loved the Teac "simulated open reel" cassettes, that always seemed to appear in stereo advertisements. They were quite difficult to find, but always a treasure.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:15 AM on February 20, 2012


Nice, Rhomboid!
posted by asok at 7:07 AM on February 20, 2012


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