Funeral for a Friend: The End of the Line for Cassette Tapes

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According to today’s New York Times, “Say So Long to an Old Companion: Cassette Tapes,” the cassette tape is dead. Though long anticipated, the end came quickly.

The cassette is survived by the CD (which is not doing well) and the LP (which has recovered because audiophiles prefer their sound).

The death of the cassette follows the death of 8-track tape in the 1970s, and the 45 in the 90s.

Apparently, new music is not released on pre-recorded tapes anymore or barely anymore. Just 400,000 pre-recorded tapes were sold in 2007. And new cars rarely have factory-installed tape players; just 4% of 2007-model year cars had cassette decks as compared to 23% for the 2005-model year.

According to the Times, the only interest in cassettes has been to make mix tapes, to listen to those mix tapes, and to listen to books on tape. One of the best things about books on tape is the ability to listen in your car, pop out the tape to listen to at home, and be able to pick up at the same place — something CDs can’t do.

But that wasn’t enough.

Last year, sales of cassette tape players fell to 480,000, down from its peak of 18 million in 1994.

For other insight into cassettes, check out the Freakonomics blog, “Where Do People Still Use Cassette Tapes?

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