Field Of Broken Formats

When I moved from Seattle to Washington, DC last year, I came face-to-face with my inner media pack rat. I had hundreds of air check cassette tapes from the various radio stations where I had worked. The little rectangular plastic tapes were tangible proof that I had indeed flapped my gums to either the delight or chagrin of millions of listeners over the years. 
But even though those tapes still exist, the actual words “cassette tapes” have now been erased from the concise version of the Oxford English Dictionary. Unless you consult the thick and heavy unabridged version in your local library, you’re unlikely to find a reference to the once ubiquitous recording medium that was the go-to format for both prerecorded music and ridiculously sappy teenage mix tapes. 
Who can forget John Cusack’s iconic moment holding a boombox over his head for a cassette tape serenade of his true love in  the 1989 movie, “Say Anything“?
Well, apparently the folks at the Oxford English Dictionary can – along with all of the automakers who years ago deleted cassette decks from dashboards. 
And, just a few months ago, Ford announced they were discontinuing CD players as well, replacing them instead with inputs for newer technology such as MP3 players, iPhones, and the like.
With that in mind, it’s kind of amazing that a once thought to be extinct recording medium – vinyl – has made such a comeback since the mid-90s. Even more amazing is that USA Today reported a few months ago that the lowly cassette tape is also making a mini resurgence – but at only 22,000 units sold by mid August of this year, it’s not much of one compared to the 2.2 million vinyl units sold during that same time.

So, that makes me wonder if my personal museum of outdated formats – reel to reel, cassette, DAT, mini disc, and the apparently soon to be outmoded CD – will one day make the same kind of comeback. 

I hope so, because imagining John Cusack on my front lawn holding an iPod over his head, just isn’t the same.


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