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MP3 generation ejects audio tape
- UK store hears death knell for an evocative piece of technology

London, May 7: The day of the audio cassette is over, it was announced today by Currys, one of Britain’s biggest retail electrical stores which said it would stop selling blank tapes when existing stocks are exhausted.

Peter Keenan, managing director of Currys, which has more than 500 stores in the UK, expressed nostalgia for the passing of an evocative piece of technology but insisted that the audio cassette had been overtaken by the digital age.

“For today’s MP3 generation, it’s just a few clicks of the mouse to achieve what’s arguably a better outcome,” he maintained.

“I remember the tape with some fondness,” he said. “It has been a remarkably durable format. The hours spent putting together compilation tapes — and the all-too-familiar experience of finding that your deck had chewed your tape — will resonate with many now in their 30s and 40s.”

Declaring that the cassette tape was now doomed, Currys confirmed today it was pressing the eject button on sales.

The move is said to have been triggered by the runaway success of digital music formats such as the iPod and the MP3 player.

In Britain, an individually chosen medley of music — with declarations of undying love — has often been used in the past by a boy romancing a girl or vice versa, of course. This has been replaced by mobile phone text messages such as: “cu x.”

In India, cheap cassettes created a huge market for Hindi film music but it has suffered from one drawback — it has allowed generations of cabbies to inflict their choice of songs on innocent passengers.

Currys also said that cassette decks, which are today installed in less than 5 per cent of audio equipment stocked by the retailer, will disappear from the range entirely within 18 months.

The compact cassette, which came to be called an audio cassette, cassette tape, cassette, or simply tape, has a magnetic tape sound recording format.

Although it was originally intended as a medium for dictation, improvements in fidelity led the compact cassette to supplant reel-to-reel tape recording in most non-professional applications.

It has its place in history. It was used very effectively in the late 1970s by the Iranian revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, when exiled by the Shah to Najaf in Iraq, to send fiery messages to Iranians urging them to rise up and overthrow the monarch — which they did.

The tapes were in clandestine circulation inside Iran and often played to Khomeini’s growing band of supporters in mosques.

Philips introduced the compact audio cassette medium for audio storage in Europe in 1963, and in the US in 1964, under the trademark name Compact Cassette.

The audio cassette was vital in the worldwide expansion of the music industry.

Later, they would be played in cars — that still happens — and came to be used for “talking books”.

Sales of pre-recorded tapes in the UK peaked in 1989, when 83 million were sold. A total of 95 million blank tapes were sold in 1990 in the UK.

Tape length is usually measured in minutes of total playing time. The most popular varieties are C46 (23 minutes per side), C60 (30 minutes per side), C90 and C120.This year, total UK sales of blank tapes are expected to be below 1 million,with negligible sales of pre-recorded tapes.

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