The Philips company invented the cassette player in 1962. It was introduced in Europe on August 30, 1963 at the Berlin Radio Show and was introduced in the US under the Norelco brand in November of 1964. The recording tape itself was placed in small, thin oblong plastic cases with a small reel on either side and was called by several different names including music cassette, audio cassette, and tape cassette.
In the beginning, the compact cassette and cassette tape player were designed for dictation uses. They were also used for data storage in the earliest microcomputers. The clear advantage over reel to reel recorders was the small size and clearer fidelity. Suddenly it was not just for use by those in a professional field, but everyone wanted a cassette tape player/recorder.
One of the most popular things about the cassette tape was that before long could you buy them with music already recorded on them and you could buy blank cassettes and record whatever you wanted to. The first blank cassettes were sold in Hanover, Germany. You could use them to record music playing from the radio or from your home stereo. You could also use them to record your own voice and were fun for audio recordings like at family gatherings or other important events.
The sound quality of the first cassette players was not that well suited for music, but once it became clear when pre-recorded music cassettes came out in Europe in 1965 and in the US in 1966, improvements in sound quality were pursued. When the Model 201 tape deck that combined Dolby Type B noise reduction and some other elements were added, the sound of the player was greatly improved.
When Were Cassette Players Installed in Cars?
As years went by and cassette players were sounding better and better, people grew to depend on them heavily for their music. The first cassette players for cars were invented in 1968 and in the coming years, they were standard in almost any vehicle. They had quickly replaced the 8 track players that had been installed in vehicles before. With the cassette player, you could pop in a cassette and let it play, but it also had rewinding capabilities that people loved. They also enjoyed the smaller size of the cassette for storing in their vehicles.
When Did They Stop Making Cassette Players in Cars?
Cassette players in cars were extremely popular for several decades, however, when CDs came out, there was a transition period that lasted for a number of years. By the time the late ’90s rolled around, those that bought new cars still had their cassette collections but may have also started buying CDs as well. This prompted some car manufacturers to put in a dashboard unit that had both a cassette player and a CD player, and of course, the radio was still always standard. It gave a music lover everything they needed to hear music in their automobile except perhaps a record player!
However, all great things come to an end sooner or later. As time went by, people more and more completely converted to CDs and by the late 2000s, cassette players were no longer being put into new vehicles. The Lexus SC 430 of 2010 is that last vehicle known to include a cassette player.
When Did Dual Cassette Decks Come Out?
As the 1970s and ’80s progressed, so did the use and convenience of the cassette player. People still used the box-shaped player/recorders that were nice for tabletops and even carrying around because they usually had a handle. Stereo tape decks were a new standard in home stereos and essential for those that wanted to build their own stereo system.
Many of these home stereo units had a dual cassette in one piece of equipment so you could play music on one side and use a blank cassette to record the cassette on the other side. Even though this was great for generating a second cassette tape of the same music for your own use, it became a nightmare for music sellers because so many times bootleg copies were made and sold on the black market. It caused them to lose a lot of revenue in sales over many years.
When Did Portable Cassette Players Come Out?
As with most electronic items, whether you want them larger or smaller is a matter of need and taste. The portable cassette player became even more popular than the transistor radios were in the 1950s and ’60s. They were small enough to fit in a shirt pocket and could be used with headphones for private listening. Sony came out with its tremendously popular Walkman in 1979 that had hi-fidelity sound.
By the 1980s, these portable cassette players were everywhere and being used by almost everyone. You would see people on the streets listening to them with headphones back then much in the same way we see people using their cellphones and headphones today.
Just the Sony Walkman alone has sold over 200 million portable cassette players. The Sony company discontinued the production of the Walkman in 2010. This was after the the MP3 player and the iPod had begun to take over because of the digital music market.
When Did the Boombox Come Out?
The Boombox, as it has been so lovingly referred to by a younger generation that didn’t think they could live without one, was actually invented by Philips in 1966. During the ’70s and ’80s and even into the ’90s, the boombox just kept getting bigger and bigger! What started out as a small square or oval-shaped box that held the cassette player and radio, eventually they got so big that you could barely carry them around. However, most young people loved them because they had larger, more powerful speakers that were so much louder than they could get from their Walkman or a smaller cassette player.
When you used the electrical cord to plug-in your boombox, it was great because you could listen to it endlessly, but when you wanted to take a boombox somewhere there was no electricity, unlike the small transistor radios or a portable cassette player, buying the number and size of batteries that were required to operate them was a huge drawback. It could be quite expensive for teens or anyone that wanted to use them where electricity was not unavailable. In their defense, they enjoyed a long life in the music market.
Pros and Cons of Cassette Tapes and Players
Even though the cassette tapes and cassette players had a number of decades run of popularity, they had their good points, but also some bad ones. Some of the best features about the cassettes and the players were that they became portable and you could play whatever music you wanted when you wanted to unlike just listening to the radio. They could be used with headphones. You could have a player in your car, your home or you could take them along with you outside and still have the option of playing what you want.
A few of the flaws that were not so hot about cassette tapes were that if there was a problem with the tape or with your player, they could get tangled up and that could be one big tape mess to unravel. People that had this happen to one of their favorite cassettes knows what it was to use a pencil to try and rewind the tape back into place. Sometimes it worked, but more often than not the cassette would never play quite the same or sound quite the same.
For those that liked to keep their cassette tapes in their car, they were often shocked if they left them in direct sunlight and the tapes would get so hot, they would never play the same ever again. Cassette tapes like a cooler, dry environment. There are also very expensive older cassettes on the market and the list continues to grow as they’re seeing a resurgence.
Who Makes the Best Cassette Players Today?
If you are in the market to purchase a new cassette player today, there are some familiar brand names that you know you can trust like Sony, Philips, and Panasonic. However there are some new brands out there there that not only play cassettes for you, but they offer modern technology that is really nice to have if converting cassettes to digital is what you are looking for!
Quantum FX J22U
Selling for about $52.00 dollars, this updated version of a classic cassette player also offers playback of digital media via the USB port or the SD card slot.
OfficeLead Retro Converter
This converter sells for about $29.00 dollars. It runs on AA batteries or USB plug-in. It converts recordings to MP3 files without the use of a computer.
RCA Shoebox Voice
This unit put out by RCA has a built-in microphone for about $76.00 dollars, but it also includes a tabletop mic. It comes with a main power source adapter as well.