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ARSCLIST  June 2007

ARSCLIST June 2007

Subject:

Re: The worst cassette tape years

From:

Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 4 Jun 2007 18:42:04 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (52 lines)

My experience has been that early 70's cassettes were built a little bit more sturdy -- perhaps even 
less flimsy plastic and often but not always screw-together housing. For whatever reason, they seem 
to hold up. I've gotten good results transferring very early mass-duped cassettes. I'm not so sure 
that age of tape, per se, is a big factor with cassettes. I think flimsiness of housing is the 
deal-maker/breaker. It seems to be the same with 8-tracks -- very old ones work fine if the 
pinchroller hasn't disintegrated. I think cassettes went through an evolution -- especially by the 
time Walkmans took off and sealed the doom of the LP -- where they became a true mass medium and 
thus mass-media/commodity economics took over and every drop of plastic resin a plant manager could 
cut out of the shell-molding process got him a big bonus. With blank-recordable cassettes, I think 
pricing dropped as the medium submerged and so you ended up with a combo of cheaper-quality shells 
and thinner tape (C-100's were common by the end of cassettes because CD's generally went longer 
than 45 minutes). But the cheap stuff was always the cheap stuff and it's hit or miss. My original 
answer concerned 3M tapes and I stand by my "generalizations" -- especially since they clearly were 
generalizations and thus assumed exceptions.

By the way, we have at the office plenty of the 3M "dictation-grade" tapes sold via office supply 
places in the 80's and early 90's, until 3M spun off Imation and its magnetic-media operations. 
These tapes don't have mechanical problems but the tape is so bad that it flakes off oxide and gums 
up heads. It doesn't squeal so I'm assuming it's not an lol problem, just plain lousy tape 
manufacturing. These were generally rotated in for interview tapes and re-used once the interview 
was transcribed, so they got a few uses each. By maybe the 10th use or so, they were obviously 
disintegrating so they would be tossed. And this from the same company that made the wonderful 
Scotch 206 reel mastering tape.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Christie Peterson" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Monday, June 04, 2007 4:55 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] The worst cassette tape years


> Tom Fine wrote:
>> If someone sent me a Scotch cassette, particularly a Highlander type, I'd first transplant it 
>> into a new housing. Then I'd see how it played. As long as it didn't squeal or obviously wow 
>> because it was mechanically un-sound or stuck together, I'd make the transfer and count myself 
>> lucky.
> As you were typing, Tom, I was making a digital copy of a Highlander brand tape from 1971 that 
> played perfectly.  As it turned out to contain some pretty historically valuable material, I'm 
> going to count myself double-lucky today (one: I found it; two: the transfer worked).  Maybe I 
> should buy a lotto ticket on the way home tonight . . .
>
> Christie Peterson
> Project Archivist, Muskie Archives & Special Collections
> Bates College
> 70 Campus Avenue
> Lewiston, ME 04240-6018
> (t) 207-753-6918
> (f) 207-755-5911
> 

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