What’s A Cassette?
April 18, 2014

What’s A Cassette?

The Huffington Post this week published a video by TheFineBros of sneering and/or bewildered kids looking at cassette Walkmans. Watching it is an example of one those situations where we for some reason enjoy feeling old and outdated. The kids may have better technology now, but we have seen things.

The clip is part of a series called Kids React, which is basically children and teenagers looking at old stuff that is really familiar to people a little older. The series is a nice demonstration of how quickly technology develops, as well as generational differences. And, as I say, for some reason this experiment also makes us feel proud to have known things that they think are crap and pointless.

Most of the kids didn’t have a clue what the Sony Walkman they were shown was for (or at least appeared not to in the well-edited clip), although one clever girl did say, “it’s a cassette player, right?” It didn’t help that they were given the player without headphones or a cassette inside. Some noticed the play button and thought it may be music related. Once given a cassette, that was as confusing as the Walkman itself, and “what’s a cassette?” was an amusing question.

As I say, the clip was obviously well edited and staged; once they had finally discovered that you put a cassette inside and the cassette contains music, they were then astonished to find that it still wouldn’t make any sound. They were informed that without headphones it was useless, to which they reacted with ‘der, that’s stoopid’ type comments. Doesn’t the same thing apply to iPods? Now I think of it, though, iPods are probably outdated to them, I suspect phones that do everything will be more the order of the day.

Nostalgia about old stuff is pretty standard and not always deserved, but the cassette did have some advantages. It was by far the best portable format, if not the best sound quality, before digital came along. CD Walkmans were a joke, with their six minutes of battery life and skipping if you experienced any kind of movement. Like walking. And compared to digital devices, cassettes made you properly listen to songs, because when your number of options was fairly limited and skipping involved a lot of guess work (as explained to the kids in the video), you were less likely to move on from a song before it had finished.

I remember first recording my own music on cassette, and it all seemed pretty easy. I was able to make some reasonable recordings (artistic quality aside) that had various tracks, and when using a four-track recorder, everything was pretty user-friendly. Current digital programs for home music recordings are much more bewildering, if not much more capable. I personally haven’t taken the time to learn how to use them properly, after beginning to learn one only to find that all of the tweaking I was able to do eventually just meant more time wasted when everything went wrong for no reason, and the recording sounded like the sound engineers from The Exorcist had been at it. At least with a cassette you could see it all mangled and knew what had gone wrong.

I don’t suppose that can be an argument for stagnation though, can it, that I can’t work out new, more complicated things. Maybe I need some kids to laugh and point at me to get me motivated.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on Amazon.com.

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