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I hate to interrupt this reverie, but my own experience with cassettes (I
own over 1600
of them, all mixed types of brands going back about 25 years) has been more
of a mixed bag.

Some do hold up very well for a long time - the cheap Certron tapes
manufactured about 1980
were excellent. Certain types of frontline brands, particularly Normal Bias
tapes, tend to 
develop dropouts or show increased evidence of noise over time. In the case
of Kmart or
Computron cheap tapes, you got what you paid for. However these were used
for low end types
of recording, such as lectures or computer datum.

AFAIK there are no "blue book" type standards for cassettes, and they are
needed - BADLY. I guess I'm
not surprised that you can play Philips tapes made in the 1960s. But I have
many tapes made made
before 1984, and some from past 1988, that won't play for one reason or
another. Splicing a
cassette tape that's been "eaten" ALWAYS results in loss of part of the
recording - no exceptions.
It's not like it's easy to locate empty shells either - you usually have to
cannibalize them
from another cassette. Nor can you purchase pads as a seperate item. Now if
you know where I
can purchase either, I'd welcome the info.

I would not trust the cassette as a dependable, "unglamourous" backup medium
for ANY kind of
recording. When they go, they go fast. You can't put one back together with
chewing gum, like
a wax cylinder. The sound *does* degrade over time. The old manufacturer
recommendation was for
a life of 16 years, and it is clear that some brands are good for well
beyond that. But this
is an exception, rather than the rule - most of my tapes have developed
problems in 16-20 years,
and more than a few have proven completely unplayable in just 24 years. This
is with me moving
around a lot in that time, so probably more than average use in my case, but
that should be the
basis of any kind of durability requirement anyway.

David N. Lewis
c/o AMG  
1168 Oak Valley Drive 
Ann Arbor, MI  48108        
(note new address)

-----Original Message-----
From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
[mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Art Shifrin
Sent: Thursday, January 29, 2004 11:22 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: [ARSCLIST] audio cassettes' hardiness


Henry's, and others' accounts of these old things still playing are very
strong arguments in favor of my advocacy of 1/8" cassettes as analog
backups. Those whose shells have deteriorated are easily transferred into
new shells.

Of course the format's not as "hot" as 15 ips or 30 ips 1/4" or 1/2" full or
two track, but the idea of having a backup to digital tapes  & disks that
most likely will be playable X decades from now is a comforting, reassuring
thought.  Yes, it'd be wonderful if the date on a disk or tape or hard drive
containing a best possible resolution digital clone of a master be readable.
But if they were to have failed, wouldn't it be precious that at least, a
state of the art analog cassette could be played instead of highly
corrupted, drop out ridden or even worse, unplayable digital versions?

As the format nopw exists, recording in only one direction would be prudent.
But as per my original post, full track & two track would be preferable.
And, such special format cassettes would be substantially compatible with
conventional players.

Shiffy