PNG images: Cassette
The Compact Cassette or Musicassette (MC), also commonly called cassette tape, audio cassette, or simply tape or cassette, is an analog magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback. It was released by Philips in 1962, having been developed in Hasselt, Belgium. Compact cassettes come in two forms, either already containing content as a pre-recorded cassette, or as a fully recordable "blank" cassette. Both forms are reversible by the user.
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The compact cassette technology was originally designed for dictation machines, but improvements in fidelity led the Compact Cassette to supplant the Stereo 8-track cartridge and reel-to-reel tape recording in most non-professional applications. Its uses ranged from portable audio to home recording to data storage for early microcomputers. The first cassette player (although mono) designed for use in car dashes was introduced in 1968. Between the early 1970s and the early 2000s, the cassette was one of the two most common formats for prerecorded music, first alongside the LP record and later the compact disc (CD).
Compact Cassettes contain two miniature spools, between which the magnetically coated, polyester-type plastic film (magnetic tape) is passed and wound. These spools and their attendant parts are held inside a protective plastic shell. Two stereo pairs of tracks (four total) or two monaural audio tracks are available on the tape; one stereo pair or one monophonic track is played or recorded when the tape is moving in one direction and the second (pair) when moving in the other direction. This reversal is achieved either by manually flipping the cassette, or by the machine automatically changing the direction of tape movement ("auto-reverse") when it detects that the tape has come to an end.
In 1935, decades before the introduction of the Compact Cassette, AEG released the first reel-to-reel tape recorder (in German: Tonbandgerät), with the commercial name "Magnetophon". It was based on the invention of the magnetic tape (1928) by Fritz Pfleumer, which used similar technology but with open reels (for which the tape was manufactured by BASF). These instruments were very expensive and relatively difficult to use and were therefore used mostly by professionals in radio stations and recording studios.
In 1958, following four years of development, RCA Victor introduced the stereo, quarter-inch, reversible, reel-to-reel RCA tape cartridge. However, it was a large cassette (5" × 7"), and offered few pre-recorded tapes. Despite the multiple versions, it failed.
Consumer use of magnetic tape machines only took off in the early 1960s, after playback machines reached a comfortable, user-friendly design. This was achieved primarily by the introduction of transistors which replaced the bulky, fragile, and costly vacuum tubes of earlier designs. Reel-to-reel tape then became more suitable to household use, but still remained an esoteric product.