New Delhi: Remember the time when you used to walk around with your walkman with cassette tape inside it playing your favourite songs? When owning a walkman used to be such a huge deal? Or when you would go to the cassette shop to get your favourite songs recorded in your tape recorder? All that nostalgia that is hitting you right now, we have one person to thank for that, Lou Ottens, the Dutch engineer behind the invention of cassette tape. Don’t be surprised if you are also hearing the name for the first time, that happened with me as well.
I saw the news yesterday about the death of Ottens, the man who gave us cassette tape in 1963, an invention that probably changed the way people consumed music and the music business as a whole. It made the music more portable and more personal for people. The intimacy of sharing the recorded mix tapes with your loved ones is something we, the Gen Z might not understand. Why?
Because unfortunately, we are not from the generation of people who loved collecting cassette tapes. The cultural impact this invention had is immaculate. Indie artists could now record their concerts and songs for their fans, without having to go to expensive record labels for contracts. The invention led to the democratisation of audio recording and made listening to music anytime anywhere possible. The car stereos could now support cassette tapes and you could groove to those beats while travelling.
Interestingly enough, Lou Ottens is also credited with his contribution in the development of Compact Discs, an invention that later took over the cassette tapes in the 1990s. However, a lot of people still dearly hold their collection of cassette tapes close to their hearts.
I talked to a senior of mine in my office about his memories with cassette tapes and he told about the times when he could not afford a cassette tape and would go to his friend to borrow one. Later, he started collecting those cassettes and that huge collection irritated his wife. “One fine day, when I was out, my wife gave that entire collection to a ragman for Rs 36! I couldn’t believe it when I came back, 150 cassettes for Rs 36!”, he said. The memories of going to the cassette shop and getting the favourite songs recorded in the tape are still fresh, he added.
On talking to Manpreet Kaur, a clinical psychologist and freelance Corporate Trainer, about her experiences with cassette tapes, she said while recalling her school days, “I remember when Sholay released and became such a huge hit. We had the audio tapes of that movie at our home and would play those tapes every morning and because of that, a point came when me and my siblings knew all the dialogues and we would narrate those dialogues together. We did not have the video tapes, so our experience of that movie was only those audios. Also, a lot of people used to collect cassette tapes and flaunt that collection. It was a huge deal back then.”
Talking about the cassettes, she also added, “I remember when the reel would get stuck in the cassette and we fixed it through a pen or even our fingers and when that tape was played again, that part of the reel would sound different. Also, we used to play around with the used or damaged reels. All such are the things that this generation would never experience.”
We all may have come a long way from the era of cassette tapes, but still that small plastic case holds a special place in the hearts of many for it has provided them with memories that are still fresh and make them relive the days of their youth! If you are a zoomer, I suggest you go and talk to a boomer about cassettes and you’ll know just by the mere smile and the enthusiasm in their voice while they share their experiences. And if you have your own experiences or stories to tell, the comment section is yours!