Vinyls, 8-tracks & cassettes, more than just memories!

By Sergio González | 15:25
pile of 80's radio cassettes

Remember this? How many hours we spent listening to cassettes in the 80’s…

YouTube, Spotify, iTunes or VEVO are names that meant nothing years ago, when vinyl, 8-tracks and cassettes were all rage. Let’s take a look back!   

Vinyl records seem a thing of a far past, something your grandparents have at home, although they have survived cassettes and 8-tracks and have continued to be produced until the late 80’s. Actually, it wasn’t us as music consumers who decided vinyls weren’t interesting anymore, but the music industry itself. As CDs were more profitable than vinyls, music distributors were eager for the shift. 

They started charging more for purchases to those retailers who returned unsold vinyls but as it wasn’t as fast as they had liked, they stopped accepting returns of vinyl records, forcing retailers to buy only CDs. But it wasn’t our choice, and according to British Entertainment Retailers Association, some  of us want them back. 

In 2011, vinyl sales went up 55% in the UK alone and music buyers were actually willing to pay on average around 15€ for them while only €5 for a CD or digital purchase. Nostalgic retro is at an all-time high, and it’s also the perfect theme for that party you’re thinking about throwing. As cool as inviting friends over for a gramophone session might be, vinyls have a huge downside; they’re not portable.

Since Edison’s phonograph appeared at the end of the 19th century, many people were working in a more efficient and cheap way of recording audio, specially in Germany, but it wasn’t until the Dutch company Philips developed the ‘Compact Cassette’ in 1962 that we could  listen to our favorite tunes everywhere, anytime.

It gained worldwide popularity so fast that people borrowed the trademark as a common word, and Sony got envious and sued Philips. Disputes among high-tech consumer products may seem like an Apple and Samsung trifle but when they appeared, cassettes were as huge as smartphones are nowadays and Sony pressed Philips to release the patent. Actually, they were fighting over which one should be the standard model for the rest of the industry. In 1991, they were still on jury in court.

How many Spring cleanings have your old cassettes survived? Surely more than one nostalgic tape has found its way into the 21st century. You may not have a device to play them anymore but hey…they may come back sooner or later. And if they don’t, you can always get yourself Sterolizer, an app that will change your iPhone into a 80’s radio cassette. Obviously it doesn’t play actual cassettes but it does the retro trick. Anyway, if you still want the real thing, consider booking a flight to the Rising Sun because Sony has released new cassettes againdesigned for the elders.

Famous singers face composition

Know who these musicians are? They were the first to appear on cassettes!

Sony has made a huge contribution to audio formats modernization and was responsible for taking the final step and erasing  the 80’s guy with a huge radio cassette wandering the streets forever. The Walkman was released in 1979 and everyone in town was to be seen with one of those or to risk being out-casted as analogically out-of-date. Then again, Sony pushed hard for Andreas Pavel –the real inventor of Walkman, aka Stereobelt– to release a royalty free version of his prototype. These actions by Sony may look a little too pushy but thanks to them, we have standards in music and you can play your music anywhere, unlike plugs or TV systems.

Philips and Sony also ventured in creating the Compact Disc, though the Asian firm took all the credit when they released the first commercially viable version in 1982. Philips developed a prototype CD according to their already popular cassette, choosing it to have 11,5 cm of diameter as its the diagonal measurement of a cassette. However, Mrs Ogha -the wife of Sony’s president– pointed out to her husband it was a useless diameter. She complained it couldn’t fit Beethoven’s Nine Symphony into one single CD so they enlarged it to 12 cm, winning the standardization competition.

When it comes to our listening to our favorite music, does the audio format really matter? Tell us your preference! 

Photo credit: Radio Saigón

Photo credit: Thuany Gabriela


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