Mark Sims

As Vinyl Outsells the CD, the Cassette Tape Is Quietly on the Way Back

(Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash)

With the cassette tape returning to popularity, I think you and I should have a little chat about our nostalgia-addled society. 


Our generation’s watchword may as well be: this is why we can’t have new things. 

Alongside the miniaturization of gaming consolesvinyl outselling the technology that replaced it, and the search for ironically lame T-shirts that we gave to the same op-shops because they were just lame a decade before, add the whirring march of the cassette tape.

According to the Nielsen Media Research, sales of tapes rose 35% in the United States, with a total of 174,000 units shifted, representing the best year for cassettes since 2012.

You guys remember cassette tapes, right? They were those things that you’d pop into your stereo’s tape deck (whatever that is) and patiently sit through an hour of inane radio chatter (that barely passes anywhere near the planet of humor) in the vain hope that you’d hear a song that would reflect the feelings you feel, lo, you hear it, but you can’t enjoy it as you’re concentrating, having to time the releasing of the “PLAY” and “REC” buttons you’ve held for the last seven minutes, hoping that you’d be able to get it correctly so the shrill voice of the DJ didn’t insert himself into your romantic mix. Whatever year that was was a crazy, stupid time.

I remember. It was the worst of times, especially when you trusted it as a medium to pitch your woo. I laboriously slaved over a mixtape that stated my intentions, sent with a foolscap note that outwardly stated my intentions to this person, replete with medieval heraldry that carried both our initials and my hopes for romance. Typically, it was rebuffed.


According to the Nielsen Media Research, sales of tapes rose 35% in the United States, with a total of 174,000 units shifted, representing the best year for cassettes since 2012.


The whole situation was horribly unearthed last year when I bumped into her randomly at a discotheque, who asked me, tongue firmly in cheek, “Remember that cassette you sent me?”

Yes, Emma, I do. Did you even listen to it? Did you hear the dolphins cry? Or just the sound of your group laughing at me?

Why would we want to go back to that pain?

The answer is enabled retro flair by the trash we watch. The popularity of Guardians of the Galaxy who reached peak creativity of our species, transporting ancient technology to space, matching judicial ass-whipping with Pina Coladas, and Stranger Things, a fever dream of neon antiquities, elevated to genius by dope production values. Piano key neckties? Whhhooooaaaa.

I understand nostalgia, I do. The computer I type this on is faster than my nerdy teenage dreams could approach, but I purely use it to play the games of my youth and playing Goldeneye through for the eightieth time leaves me with a corrosive feeling. The true value of nostalgia is taxidermy. Think of all the things you loved as a kid and put them behind glass, see them as a museum exhibit guarded by a sign that asks you not to touch or take photos of it. You see, the value of these objects is rediscovery, but only in an abstract fashion. Seeing in your mind, but not touching with your hands.

As soon as you use these devices, their power is lost. You measure them against what you accept as normal now, and, whether we want to admit it or not, it becomes disappointing. Use subverts your memories and the value you placed, or the money you spent chasing that feeling that once meant something.



Yes. That’s Elijah Wood, and, no, Back To The Future was not awesomepants, it was tat. Especially the second one, and shut up about your hoverboard (or lack thereof). If I learned anything about being pixelated James Bond again, it’s that reality is a carefully aimed silenced pistol shot to the enlarged head. It hurts, or on Double-0, it hurts a bit, before you stand there completely unaffected; and that is certainly my point. Unlike your youth, you feel nothing. And that’s so much worse, and there’s no amount of magnified scientist casualties you can commit that will minimize your ennui.

Noted life-coach Shia LeBeouf once instructed us to not let our dreams remain exactly that. I disagree. Live your new dreams, but leave the old ones alone. That way, those golden Saturday mornings spent with the departed on departed technology will forever remain what they should be, untouchably important.


(Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Unsplash)


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