Let’s celebrate the technology that featured sound quality that was exceeded only by its mechanical perfection
1Cassettes used tape. Everyone (yes, everyone) knows that suspending a bunch of teeny-tiny little magnets in plastic, blasting them with supersonic energy, then making them line up using a method that resembles herding drunken and disorderly cats is the surest way possible to create a peachy-keen sound.
2Cassettes were designed for low-fi dictation applications, not music. Being perversely contrary is in a musician’s DNA. So of course, upon first seeing the cassette, musicians realized immediately that this was clearly destined to be the playback medium of the future. Even better, cassettes distorted like crazy!
3The format was ahead of its time. The widespread adoption of low-bit-rate MP3 formats, played through earbuds from China, proved that what people really wanted was not incremental, but detrimental, changes in sound quality. The cassette delivered on that promise long before digital technology figured out how to take truly bad sound to a hitherto-uncharted level of wretchedness.
4Cassettes had little reels that rotated. Back in the ’60s, if people had communed sufficiently with a midaltering substance, they could be amused for hours watching the little reels go around—even if the music wasn’t any good. Decades later, music videos would exploit this very same principle by making elaborate videos for forgettable music.
5They made spectacular road kill. When people got frustrated with cassettes jamming in their car stereo and threw them out the window, the tape would unravel like some strange kind of post-industrial intestine, literally spilling its guts all over the interstate. Can a CD do that? A download? Vinyl? No! Need I say more?