This month, Philips, the innovator behind Compact Cassette technology, celebrates the cassette’s golden anniversary. That’s 50 years of playing, recording, fast forwarding, rewinding and flipping the tape.
As a company rooted in continuing our commitment to meaningful innovation, few inventions have been as culturally meaningful in the last 50 years as the compact cassette. It provided a portable and inexpensive way to capture moments in time and ultimately, helped shape the music industry, popular culture, politics, and the way we live today. As stated by TIME magazine, “What now seems like a relic was a revolution.”
Did you know?
The Philips compact cassette shaped the music industry and the music we listen to today. The Rolling Stones’ song “Satisfaction” (the band’s signature track) and Nirvana‘s Nevermind (arguably the most impactful rock album of the last 25 years) may never have been heard without Philips compact cassette technology. The ensuing popularity of the portable, affordable technology also gave birth to the mix-tape, which has led to today’s digital playlists.
Additionally, the compact cassette helped spread hip hop music through the recordings of parties and shows, which had previously only existed in live form. As more tapes became available, they were collected and traded by fans until the mid-1980s when DJs began recording their live music and selling tapes of their own.
And then there’s the entire home-grown trading system that evolved around the taping of Grateful Dead concerts.
Film and Literature
The romance, impact and nostalgia of the compact cassette can be seen in many popular movies and books, including High Fidelity (both the book and film), Wayne’s World, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Clockwork Orange, Electrick Children and Say Anything.
These film depictions helped drive the passion that flourished in the decades leading up to the recordable compact disc. And Rolling Stone magazine’s Rob Sheffield’s 90’s memoir Love is a Mix Tape immortalizes the emotional heft that the perfect mix tape can have on our relationships.
PoliticsThe 1979 Iran revolution was fueled by the audio cassette tape. Recorded tapes of Ayatollah Khomeini’s sermons in Najaf were distributed through the underground, to undermine the brutal and secular regime of the Shah. The medium was new, flexible, easily used and easily disseminated - and delivered messages all across Iran which the regime could not control.
In addition, The Cassette Scandal of 2000 was one of the main political events in Ukraine's post-independence history. The scandal centered on accusations against the then-standing president Kuchma regarding his involvement in an abduction and other crimes – all caught on cassette tapes in secret conversations. The audio revelations dramatically changed the country's domestic and foreign policy following the scandal.
The Cassette tape celebrates its golden anniversary
Archived photo of the First Philips Cassette player
Photo of the girst Philips Cassette tape
Model displays first Philips Cassette player
Cassette advertisement from 1965
Cassette advertisement from 1971