Compact Audiotape Cassette

In 1960, Consumer Reports reviewed an in-car vinyl record player offered by Chrysler, The RCA Victor “Victrola.” It held 14 records and could play for 2.5 hours continuously. To keep the needle from bouncing around, it was pressed into the vinyl wearing down records. Despite that common sense says the invention sounds idiotic, it worked reasonably well.

Despite that, driving around with a stylus trying to track a record was never especially popular. Most people settled for radio. The eight-track player was a stopgap solution that went out of style with leisure suits. It was disrupted by a smaller, more nimble technology that could both record and playback music, the compact audio cassette.

Cassette players were fun! Also, useful. And cheap. They were a simple, convenient way to play music. They worked fine in cars and homes. Much to the chagrin of the music industry, people could record from their vinyl records or another cassette. The mix-tape didn’t make the cut as a major innovation but they were fun back in the day. They were also a good way to impress an inspiring romantic interest.

Ottens, inventor of the compact audio cassette, worked as an employee of Phillips until retirement. Phillips never thought much of the technology, to the point that they awarded licenses to use most of the innovation for free. They believed the tape was too thin for high quality recording proving, again, that low-cost and good-enough quality is oftentimes the perfect product mix.

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