Tech // Tip Tuesday: Old Meets New

By: Kirk Hilbrecht

This Tech Tip Tuesday post comes at the heels of a wonderful Memorial Day weekend.

It’s also a throw back tech to my adolescence, specifically to listening to my favorite music.

Growing up, I had three options for listening to recorded music: vinyl-disks-called records on a turntable, the radio, or the cassette tape.

Believe it or not, cassette tapes came in several varieties that boasted better clarity and sound quality. Blank cassette tapes ranged from standard tape (lowest quality, and the cheapest tape) to METAL (the highest quality and most-expensive option).

Like a CD or a DVD today, we would record our favorite music from our LPs (records) to a cassette tape to listen to the music while ‘jogging’ with our Walkman or to play in our cars.

What inspires this topic on old technology involves a recent problem my oldest daughter, Claire (who’s 16 for reference), encountered at her job. Claire works at a local nursing home as a food server. She met a resident, Mr. Jones, who wrote and performed several songs that he previously recorded on his portable cassette player.

Claire wanted to help Mr. Jones preserve his songs and share these tunes with his family.

So, we ordered a Cassette-to-MP3 converted that allowed the cassette tape, and it’s contents, to be converted into several electronic files by iTunes or other audio software.

I demonstrated to Claire how this would work before her shift so she could help Mr. Jones.

Approximately one hour after our one-on-one function check/tutorial, I receive a phone call from Claire.

CLAIRE: Dad, I played the cassette in Mr. Jones’ cassette player and it worked. Then I placed it in the adapter, and it worked for a while, but then when I put it back into Mr. Jones’ cassette player, there was no more music.

ME: (I’m thinking that the original tape ‘got eaten’ by the machine and my daughter would be blamed…I’m thinking I’m having to drive to the nursing home…)

ME: Uh…okay. Did you flip the cassette tape?

CLAIRE: There are two sides to the cassette?

ME: Yes. It actually records two tracks in two different directions on the plastic tape.

CLAIRE: Oh. Let me flip the cassette….nope, nothing.

ME: Okay. Is the tape ‘twisted’ or laying flat when you look at the bottom of it?

CLAIRE: It’s flat, Dad.

ME: Good. That means the tape wasn’t messed up. Okay…how many songs are on that cassette?

CLAIRE: Three songs.

ME: And you heard them before on Mr. Jones’ cassette recorder?

CLAIRE: Yes.
ME: Okay. Did you rewind the tape to the beginning?

CLAIRE: (Pause) You need to do that?

ME: Yup. It doesn’t just ‘play’ music like a MP3 player or iTunes device.

CLAIRE: (Rewinding the cassette and ‘playing’ the music) Thanks, Dad! That worked!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

It’s interesting how technologies upgrading us to ‘current’ technologies still require us to have a basic understanding of the previous tech.

So, the point of today’s Tech Tip Blog is: Don’t purge your brain of ALL previous tech platforms…they may one day serve you well!

Now, where did I leave that 8-Track of the Bee Gees…

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