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The Compact Cassette or Musicassette (MC), also commonly called the tape cassette, cassette tape, audio cassette, or simply tape or cassette, is an analog magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback. It was developed by the Dutch company Philips in Hasselt, Belgium, by Lou Ottens and his team. It was introduced in September 1963. Compact Cassettes come in two forms, either already containing content as a prerecorded cassette (Musicassette), or as a fully recordable “blank” cassette. Both forms have two sides and are reversible by the user.
The compact cassette technology was originally designed for dictation machines, but improvements in fidelity led the Compact Cassette to supplant the stereo 8-track cartridge and reel-to-reel tape recording in most non-professional applications.
Its uses ranged from portable audio to home recording to data storage for early microcomputers. The first cassette player (although mono) designed for use in car dashboards was introduced in 1968. From the early 1970s to mid-2000s, the cassette was one of the two most common formats for prerecorded music, first alongside the LP record and later the compact disc (CD).
Compact Cassettes contain two miniature spools, between which the magnetically coated, polyester-type plastic film (magnetic tape) is passed and wound. These spools and their attendant parts are held inside a protective plastic shell which is 4 by 2.5 by 0.5 inches (10 cm × 6.3 cm × 1.3 cm) at its largest dimensions.
The tape itself is commonly referred to as “eighth-inch” tape, supposedly 1⁄8 inch (3.17 mm) wide, but it is slightly larger: 0.15 inches (3.81 mm). Two stereo pairs of tracks (four total) or two monaural audio tracks are available on the tape; one stereo pair or one monophonic track is played or recorded when the tape is moving in one direction and the second (pair) when moving in the other direction. This reversal is achieved either by flipping the cassette, or by the reversal of tape movement (“auto-reverse”) when the mechanism detects that the tape has come to an end.
Before the Compact Cassette
In 1935, AEG released the first reel-to-reel tape recorder with the commercial name “Magnetophon”. It was based on the invention of the magnetic tape by Fritz Pfleumer in 1928. These machines were very expensive and relatively difficult to use, and were therefore used mostly by professionals in radio stations and recording studios.
After the Second World War, the magnetic tape recording technology proliferated across the world. In the US, Ampex, using equipment obtained in Germany as a starting point, began commercial production of tape recorders. First used in studios to record radio programs, tape recorders quickly found their way into schools and homes. By 1953, 1 million US homes had tape machines.
In 1958, following four years of development, RCA Victor introduced the stereo, quarter-inch, reversible, reel-to-reel RCA tape cartridge. The cartridge was large at 5 x 7 1/8 x 1/2 inches (127 x 197 x 13 mm), and few pre-recording tapes were offering. Despite the multiple versions, it failed.
Consumer use of magnetic tape machines took off in the early 1960s, after playback machines reached a comfortable, user-friendly design. This was aiding by the introduction of transistors which replaced the bulky, fragile, and costly vacuum tubes of earlier designs. Reel-to-reel tape then became more suitable for household use, but still remained an esoteric product.
Introduction of the Compact Cassette
In the early 1960s Philips Eindhoven tasked two different teams to design a tape cartridge for thinner and narrower tape compared to what was used in reel-to-reel tape recorders. By 1962, the Vienna division of Philips developed a single-hole cassette, adapted from its German described name Einloch-Kassette. The Belgian team created a two-spool cartridge similar to an earlier RCA design, but much smaller.
Philips selected the two-spool cartridge as a winner and introduced it in Europe on 30 August 1963 at the Berlin Radio Show, and in the United States (under the Norelco brand) in November 1964. The trademark name Compact Cassette came a year later. The team of Dutch and Belgian origin at Philips was led by the Dutch Lou Ottens in Hasselt, Belgium.
Philips also offered a machine to play and record the cassettes, the Philips Typ EL 3300. An updated model, Typ EL 3301 was offered in the US in November 1964 as Norelco Carry-Corder 150. Since 1966 over 250,000 recorders had been sold in the US alone and Japan soon became the major source of recorders and by 1968, 85 manufacturers had sold over 2.4 million players.
By the end of the 1960s, the cassette business was worth an estimated 150 million dollars. By the early 1970s the compact cassette machines were outselling other types of tape machines by a large margin.
Philips was competing with Telefunken and Grundig (with their DC International format) in a race to establish its cassette tape as the worldwide standard, and it wanted support from Japanese electronics manufacturers. Philips’ Compact Cassette became dominant as a result of Sony pressuring Philips to license the format to them free of charge.
In the early years sound quality was mediocre, but it improved dramatically by the early 1970s when it caught up with the quality of 8-track tape and kept improving. The Compact Cassette went on to become a popular (and re-recordable) alternative to the 12-inch vinyl LP during the late 1970s.
How many times can you record over a cassette tape?
First, there’s a felt pressure pad in most cassettes which can get dirty or out of position. Short of handling accidents, the pad won’t usually go out of position on its own, but it will gradually get dirty from dust, oxide that flakes off from the backing and so forth.
If the tape is very old – increasingly true since the best cassettes have mostly gone from the market – the glue may become brittle and the pad come loose eventually. That’s one constraint.
Second, erase heads are not perfect. The oxide on the tape will gradually acquire residual traces of earlier recordings, so the background noise will tend to increase as the tape is recording, erasing and re-recording, etc.
I don’t think you can really put a single number on the point of no return here, but certainly you should be able to re-record the tape at least a few times before the noise starts to build up. When it does, it will be subtle at first. Eventually, if you reuse the tape over and over, it will accumulate.
Also, if you do not routinely demagnetize your heads and other metal parts on the tape’s path, the gradually accumulated magnetism will tend to erase some of the high frequencies off of your tape. The tape is not damaginvg by this, but the recording is.
Re-recording the tape after demagnetizing the metal in the tape’s path will prevent this from happening to the next recording made on that tape, but it won’t help restore a recording that’s already been degradeing by residual magnetism.
How much music can I fit on a tape?
Cassettes are recording as side A and side B. Two stereo pairs of tracks (four total) are available on a cassette tape; the first stereo pair is playing or recording when the tape is moving in one direction and the other pair when moving in the opposite direction. So a standard 60 minute tape can contain up to 30 minutes of recorded material on each side.
Prepare your audio tracks so that side A and side B are approximately equal in length so there is not too much silence on either side.
90 minutes total recorded audio is the new maximum length that can be producing.
How Big Is A Cassette Tape?
Cassette dimensions are approximately 4″ × 2½” × ½”. The track configuration is often four-track stereo, where tracks 1 and 2 compose “Side A” and tracks 3 and 4 compose “Side B.” Some home-recording enthusiasts may use a four-track recorder to create multi-track recordings.
Do cassette tapes have different sizes?
Listing them in order of their popularity, the three tape sizes are: Micro Cassette. Standard Cassette and. Executive Cassette.
What is the largest cassette tape?
Sony has developed a new cassette tape — much more high tech than this one — that is capable of holding 185 terabytes of data. Sony announced it has created a cassette tape that smashes a previous record for data storage.
How many minutes of music does a cassette tape hold?
This would depend how long the tape was made for. You have many lengths. Very common are: 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 90 minutes, 100 minutes and 120 minutes.
But there are 10 minute tapes for old computers from the 80’s, that stored files on tape by converting it to sound-waves. For albums the tape is specially cut to the length of the album. Sometimes it wouldn’t be two times 30 minutes for example, so a little bit of empty space was left on one side.