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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?