Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The mixtape is dead

Analog tunes
London, ON
July 2012
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I'm just as fascinated by what happens at the trailing edge of tech as I am by the leading edge. In our crazy rush to touch the future, we leave stuff behind. Even more telling, we often forget what we've forgotten until it's too late.

To wit, the cassette tape. Back in the day (seriously, way back), I spent too many nights painstakingly putting together just the right mixtapes. You had to pick the right tunes, in just the right order, and you had to record them just so. And if you didn't have the album or CD, you recorded it off the air. Good times.

The 12-year-old me listened to them at home or on my, gasp, Walkman. A few years later, they came along with me as I hit the road in mom's Pinto (don't laugh; it worked. Some of the time.) If I close my eyes, I can still see the carefully Sharpie-scripted titles on each label, each one indelibly connected to a slice of time in my life, a trip we took, a moment in my developing relationship with the girl who eventually overlooked my mixtape looniness and married me anyway.

In retrospect, the audio quality was abysmal. And it only got worse over time as the tape stretched, degaussed and greased itself into the sonic equivalent of hell. Today, we download or rip tunes, assemble them into a playlist, sync our media players or phones and call it a day. It's so much more convenient, and the quality is worlds apart from those basement-borne creations.

Yet somehow, I don't feel as attached to my playlists as I did my mixtapes. They may have been as annoying as sin, especially when they either melted on the dashboard or spit themselves out of the tape deck in an inglorious riot of stringy, crinkly brownness. But we put so much more of ourselves into them than any iTunes-toting kid would do today. I don't think today's technology will ever come close on that front.

So when I saw this new-looking TDK cassette - essentially identical, down to the brand, to the ones I once owned - sitting on a desk in a local studio, I had to snap it. There's no telling when even these pristine examples will disappear for good.

Your turn: What other technologies are we losing to time?

15 comments:

Tabor said...

Makes my head ache to try to comprehend how fast technology has moved in my life-time from 75RPMs, to 45RPMs, to cassettes, to CDs, to iPOds, ro MP3 players, to any device that will transmit from the cloud!

Kalei's Best Friend said...

How about books? newspapers, magazines? now all of those u can get on Kindle...I'd love to get a Kindle but I can't give up books!. Call me crazy, but I love the feel, scent of books.. and perusing thru bookstores.. We have one only one bookstore in our valley, the others have gone out of business. Even the used bookstore is gone. Sad...

JJ said...

I remember my first tape recorder. Great memories.

CorvusCorax12 said...

the panic when the tape unraveled or "gasp" ripped and you taped them together and painstakingly rolled the tape back up with a pen. ahhhhh ,good times :)
I have to say though, i love my MP3 player and Sony reader.

Glenn Cressman said...

Web sites? (to be replaced by blogs and social Pages?)

Glenn Cressman said...

Web sites? To be replaced by blogs and social Pages?

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I think I saved two mixtapes from my collage days, just because I loved them so much (pretty sure neither tape works any more).

I wonder if I could find them a take pics...
~

Max Sartin said...

Mix tapes, thanks for bringing them back to my mind. I had a few of my own, and like you said, your poured your heart, soul and time into them. I also had a Pinto, one of the best car's I ever owned. The doors didn't fit tight, the defrost just heated behind the dash, but I bought it for $260, beat the living crap out of it for 3 years and then sold it for $235. Oh, I did have to put $2.35 in repairs into it.

Janet said...

ahhhh, mix tapes! I have a friend who was a DJ back then and he made the most awesome tapes!!! Thanks for the way back, Carmi :-)

G. Harrison said...

I'm down to my last few tapes and will keep them (incl. taped stories from my dad) for another 30 years. I'll keep them beside an old tape recorder and my last two transistor radios. Cheers, GH

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

My first gift to my future husband was a mixtape (made from CDs and actual albums). But oh, the time spent waiting for my favorite songs to play on the radio, with a small tape recorder at hand, prepared to press the record button! Now I make my own mix CDs from iTunes (my minivan only plays CDs) -- the quality is significant better but I almost miss the loving gift of time spent at the tape recorder, making such mixes.

Hilary said...

Ha.. I remember hoping the radio DJ wouldn't talk over the end of a song or cut it short. And the rush to catch the beginning as soon as you realize they're playing the song you want. Fun memories and you're right, we poured much more into those "playlists" than we do with a simple download.

theMuddledMarketPlace said...

oh crumbs....Nostalgia United!

So this is the time to confess that I still have more than a few old cassette tapes .....

TexWisGirl said...

oh, many an hour sitting with fingers poised on the 'record' and 'play' buttons to catch the song from the radio we so desperately wanted. then the damn dj would cut into the last 15 seconds! ugh!

congrats on your POTW!

Out on the prairie said...

i have hundreds, but rarely listen to them.An art was filling them so there wasn't a gap when they switched over.I laugh at solos I added just to make them fit.