EDITOR’S NOTE: This year in our HPB calendar, we’re celebrating all things printed and recorded—and played, solved, watched, etc. In other words, all the cool stuff we buy and sell in our stores. For October, we’re hitting rewind on the history of the cassette tape.
1928 Magnetic tape is invented by Fritz Pfleumer.
1963 Philips introduces the compact cassette; it is first used for dictation machines.
1968 The first in-dashboard car cassette player appears.
1968 Dolby noise reduction gives cassettes better sound and more viability for music.
1993 Compact discs overtake cassettes in sales. By 2000, a tiny percentage of music is sold on cassette.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Mixtapes on cassette—homemade compilations of songs in a carefully considered order, often given to another person—were a mainstay in the 1980s. Novelist Nick Hornby wrote in High Fidelity, “making a tape is like writing a letter—there’s a lot of erasing and rethinking and starting again.”
- Bill Lear of Lear Jet Corporation led the development of the 8-track, which debuted in 1964 and was common until the early 80s. Some record labels released 8-track tapes as late as 1988.
- Due to their small size, cassettes made music personal and portable, paving the way for products like stereo boom boxes and the Sony Walkman.
Want to dive deeper? Check out these great products!
Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture, Thurston Moore
Cassette From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Love, Jason Bitner
Tape, Steven Camden
Love is a Mix Tape: Life and Loss, One Song at a Time, Rob Sheffield
High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
Cassette: A Documentary Mixtape