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October 28th, 2008

The Magic of Tape

Recently Carrie Brownstein at NPR’s Monitor Mix waxed nostalgic about tape recorders. As she puts it:

If you have any doubt that your MP3 player is making you dumber, go to Goodwill and buy a tape machine. Within minutes, you’ll feel like the rocket scientist you were pre-Internet, pre-iPod. It’s ironic, I know. But the more buttons there are, the smarter you’ll feel.

Great observation. Tape recorders are much more involved; with iPods it’s fully “set it and forget it.”

When I was a kid one of my favorite devices in the world was my portable Panasonic tape recorder. It was black with a smooth-opening hinge over the deck itself and a pop-out plastic handle. It had a bright orange record button integrated into the play button. It had an input jack and a headphone jack. It had a silver speaker grille, and it ran on 4 D batteries.

For me it was a world of imagination. My favorite setup was this: tape recorder, Magna-Doodle, and TV. With that trio I created my own TV network, PTV. I’d do the titles on the Magna-Doodle, do commercials and announcements on the tape recorder, and of course, “run” the TV.

But I wasn’t always running a TV network of course. I also had a vibrant solo career; my debut tape, _Just Across the Ocean_, included a hand-drawn cassette cover and a track listing that included a cover of “It’s Noisy in Here.” That song, for those not in the know, was from a cassette distributed with a hard-to-find edition of Mr. Noisy, a part of the Mr. Men and Little Miss series. Duh.

As years went by I stopped pretending with the tape recorder as much and started doing other things, many of which weren’t noteworthy. But I can’t help but agree that there was something magical there. I wonder how today’s kids will look back on YouTube and self-producing videos; hopefully they’ll be happy to recall those joyful times too.

Posted in Childhood Memories, Technology

Ryan October 28, 2008, 2:15 pm

I still have a few tapes from when I was a kid and recorded my own radio shows by holding up the boombox to the speaker of my stereo and playing records. WQIR were my call letters (they stood for nothing, just sounded funny).

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