Tape Storage, 1977


Found in Texas Monthly, 1977 Vol. 5, No. 11

This advertisement for Maxell media displays four very common tape formats from the 70s:  clockwise from top, studio tape [1], 8-track tape, reel-to-reel tape, and cassette. Digital storage has, for all intents and purposes, obsoleted all of these. That said, some companies still offer tape backup solutions for companies which are looking for certain advantages.

For the most part, however, this is a forgotten technology among the young people of today, an entire generation of whom have never lived in a time when the Internet didn’t exist.


If you’re one of those youngsters and wonder, that pencil would come in really handy if you ever encountered a cassete that looked like this:


… which would happen with more frequency than you might wish, if your player was on the fritz.

Having grown up in the 50’s and 60’s, reel-to-reel was all I knew as a child; when the Tinico tape recorder [2] was introduced, I coveted one of these with a white-hot passion. It was one of the few things I begged for as a kid that I never got.


You can see this one in action, playing a speech by John F. Kennedy, at YouTube.

What I did get much later, as an adult, was the smallest Sony Walkman ever produced. It was designed to be exactly the size of a tape cassette in its case when closed  – the lid would slide down about half an inch to accomodate a cassette:


Walkman, closed


Walkman, open.


Size comparison

I still have mine  in a drawer – time has taken its toll and it no longer works, but I got a lot of use out of it and it’s still fun to hold. It was manufactured, I think, as more of a novelty than a truly useful device, because the ultra-miniaturization of all the components meant elevated fragility as well.

It’s interesting to have some historical perspective on audio and computer media. As usual, it makes me wonder with insatiable curiosity what my granddaughters will have seen by the time they are my age.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] I had originally called this computer tape; thanks to Salvador Virgen for pointing out that it was indeed something else, which I verified with an image search.

[2] The referenced article compares the Tinico recorder with a Soviet copy. I remember a joke my mother telling me back in the 60’s, which she in turn heard from a Russian emigrée friend of hers; it concerned a Soviet diplomat being given a tour of a technology display, and at every stop the Russian would say, “Oh, da – Russians invented that.” Finally he was handed an audio cassette, and he said, “Oh, da! Russians invented that! What is it?”

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