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Businesses Media Music Entertainment

For a Missouri Cassette Tape Factory, Obsolesence is Just a 12-Letter Word (arstechnica.com) 169

The Missouri-based National Audio Company, reports Ars Technica, is sweeping up in a category that our future-looking selves might twenty years ago have imagined would be dead and buried in the year 2015: making and selling audiocassettes. There are fewer and fewer competitors in the tape-making business, but NAC still has a healthy market for cassettes -- in October, the company noted "a 31 percent increase in order volume over the previous year." From the article: [Company president Steve Stepp] said that as his competitors began bailing out of the cassette business once CDs came to prominence, NAC started buying up their machinery. “It would have been incredibly expensive 30 to 35 years ago when [cassette manufacturing machines] were new on the market, but when our competitors bailed out of the business and started making CDs, we went round the country and bought [them] out," he said. Some artists are still releasing music on tape, but about 70 percent of what the company sells is blank cassettes; there are an awful lot of tape decks out there; my father alone still buys a few hundred blanks each year.
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For a Missouri Cassette Tape Factory, Obsolesence is Just a 12-Letter Word

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  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @09:29AM (#51181753) Homepage

    "Ob so le se nc e is Just a 12-Letter Word"

    Really?

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

      by rockout ( 1039072 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @09:30AM (#51181763)
      How great is it that they spelled it wrong but got the letter count of the correct spelling?
    • by MacDork ( 560499 )

      ca-se-et-te-ta-pe

      12 letters :)

  • The best (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rockout ( 1039072 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @09:29AM (#51181755)
    I loved buying Maxell XL-IIS blanks. That being said, I can't see buying and making tapes today. It'd be like buying an old Polaroid camera... oh wait I did that
    • They were good tapes. Made from a good record and with Dolby C (not B!) they sounded pretty good. They were NOT as good as vinyl of course and the quality of a mass produced audio cassette is so bad it is hard to listen to. I assume that factory does not make tape as good as a Maxell XL-IIS.

    • I loved buying Maxell XL-IIS blanks. That being said, I can't see buying and making tapes today. It'd be like buying an old Polaroid camera... oh wait I did that

      I used to buy Maxell XL-IIS as well. I still have a couple of boxes of blanks. I haven't recorded a cassette since I got my first CD burner back in 1999.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @09:35AM (#51181777) Homepage

    Obviously there are exceptions like wax cylinders and stone tablets, but in general if a medium is cheap and/or does a job thats not easily or cheaply replicated elsewhere it'll stick around. As soon as the Next Thing comes along certain people always predict the demise of that which its superceding. Cassette was supposed to kill vinyl. It didn't. Ditto CDs, they didn't. MP3s were supposed to kill CDs and cassettes. They didn't. Streaming - we are told - is the end of downloads. Yeah, right. DVD killed VHS? No it didn't - not until set top box recorders came along to fill in that functionality. Automatic gearboxes were the death knell of manual transmissions. Oh really? Now driverless cars will be the end of human driven cars. No, don't think so.

    Anyone who predicts the end of anything without waiting a few decades is an idiot.

    • by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @10:15AM (#51181865)

      CDs killed vinyl just as surely as digital has killed CDs. That a few holdouts still use them does not make them any less dead as a mainstream medium. You can still ride a horse if you like, and once a year a significant number of people even watch a horse race. That does not mean that the automobile did not kill the horse.

      • by lucm ( 889690 )

        the automobile did not kill the horse.

        Automobiles don't kill horses. People with automobiles kill horses.

      • CDs killed vinyl just as surely as digital has killed CDs. That a few holdouts still use them does not make them any less dead as a mainstream medium. You can still ride a horse if you like, and once a year a significant number of people even watch a horse race. That does not mean that the automobile did not kill the horse.

        There is a lot of self righteous Nerdiness that will lambast this comment. Whatever confusion this poster might have regarding Analog vs. Digital, I'm more worried about the extinction of horses, how cars have been killing them, and how riding a horse and watching a horse is a good analogy for digital to analog. If the horse has a bowel movement is that a core dump? -- and If I don't watch it, will I have a checksum error? The mind boggles.

        I don't have the Geek cred of many here, but I still do learn a lot

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @12:28PM (#51182223)

      Obviously there are exceptions like wax cylinders and stone tablets, but in general if a medium is cheap and/or does a job thats not easily or cheaply replicated elsewhere it'll stick around. As soon as the Next Thing comes along certain people always predict the demise of that which its superceding. Cassette was supposed to kill vinyl. It didn't. Ditto CDs, they didn't. MP3s were supposed to kill CDs and cassettes. They didn't. Streaming - we are told - is the end of downloads. Yeah, right. DVD killed VHS? No it didn't - not until set top box recorders came along to fill in that functionality. Automatic gearboxes were the death knell of manual transmissions. Oh really? Now driverless cars will be the end of human driven cars. No, don't think so.

      Anyone who predicts the end of anything without waiting a few decades is an idiot.

      On the other hand, the drop in volume can be measured, and eventually the drop in volume reaches a point where the only customers left are niche customers, and sometimes there aren't enough niche customers to justify production anymore.

      I have a fairly large LaserDisc collection. There were machines to record LaserDisc, but they were very limited in number. No one produces blanks for them anymore just as no one produces titles on LaserDisc anymore. There had been "Selectavision", an RCA system for movies that played on a vinyl disc. No more of those either. 8-track also appears to be completely out of production even though it had achieved fairly significant market penetration, to the point it was common in automobiles and home stereos in the seventies and touching the eighties.

      This particular factory, if they play their cards right, can be the niche manufacturer for a whole bunch of media as the big players get out. They have to be careful and pick-and-choose what's worth trying to keep up with, but if they choose wisely they can continue to be the source for blanks and possibly even factory-mastered media for some time after the big players stop. If they choose poorly though, that could just knock them out.

    • We don't use them very often, but we do still make stone tablets in the form of headstones and the occasional monument.

  • Only weirdos continue to make magtapes in the age of the mp3. Audio magtapes have shit quality (at least, typical audiocassette tape does) and degrade over time, and they break. The ONLY reason AT ALL that they still exist is for 4x4s. A cheap mp3 player often doesn't remember your song position. A cheap tape deck is even cheaper, if you don't cheat and just install an el cheapo amp with an mp3 player directly connected to it.

    I went for mp3 in my 4x4 :p

    • There's always someone that invested in a technology and refuses to invest in a new one. My mom still goes to thrift stores and buys VHS tapes and now has a huge library of them. Trying to find her a replacement VHS/DVD player this year was a challenge, teaching her how to use the new one, even more so. I've managed to sell my dad on digital movies and once he got over the learning curve, he now prefers it to DVDs. But, my mom, you'll have to pry the VHS player out of her cold dead fingers.
    • Only weirdos continue to make magtapes in the age of the mp3. Audio magtapes have shit quality (at least, typical audiocassette tape does) and degrade over time, and they break.

      Yes, why use an analog media with those qualities, when a digital media with the exact same qualities can be had?

    • by Agripa ( 139780 )

      Only weirdos continue to make magtapes in the age of the mp3. Audio magtapes have shit quality (at least, typical audiocassette tape does) and degrade over time, and they break. The ONLY reason AT ALL that they still exist is for 4x4s. A cheap mp3 player often doesn't remember your song position. A cheap tape deck is even cheaper, if you don't cheat and just install an el cheapo amp with an mp3 player directly connected to it.

      What I fine funny about this is that I have old 256 kbit/sec MP3s encoded by LAME

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @10:07AM (#51181847)

    That's more than the number of weekdays in the year. What the hell does he do with that many?

  • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @10:29AM (#51181901) Journal

    there are an awful lot of tape decks out there; my father alone still buys a few hundred blanks each year.

    Am I the only one who's dying to know what the author's father is doing with those hundreds of blank cassettes every year?

    • there are an awful lot of tape decks out there; my father alone still buys a few hundred blanks each year.

      Am I the only one who's dying to know what the author's father is doing with those hundreds of blank cassettes every year?

      Oh, that's easy to answer . . . porn!

    • there are an awful lot of tape decks out there; my father alone still buys a few hundred blanks each year.

      Am I the only one who's dying to know what the author's father is doing with those hundreds of blank cassettes every year?

      Probably backing off in the jack room?

    • Backing up his computer at 1.2 Mb/tape?

  • I have a high end tape deck and a box of blank Type II and a number of blank Type IV cassettes but I haven't hooked up my tape deck to my new Elite AV receiver nor to my previous one. The last time I used it was around 2000 when I digitized a widow's late husband's demo tapes to clean up the audio and put it on CDs for her.

  • Who's buying these? The same crowd that thinks LPs offer a superior listening experience to digital? Sigh...
    • Who's buying these? The same crowd that thinks LPs offer a superior listening experience to digital? Sigh...

      From the sound of TFS, I'd guess that most are for making recordings, law offices, secretaries taking meeting notes, dictationists, etc. Could very well that there is some reason to keep using tape rather than digital. Besides that companies don't like to spend money to upgrade system just because, there could be legal reasons that would make digital records discoverable but not recorded tape.

  • I haven't bought in blank cassette tapes in 20 years, and I am not even part of the hipster mp3 crowd. I don't own any music on mp3 (very few people who have mp3s actually own it, but that is another tale for another day). I do have several hundred CDs.
    What got me wondering is that I have bought much more recently, backup drive tapes in different formats. That got me wondering if perhaps this company is doing a lot of volume in DAT, DLT or other formats, and maybe not so much in classic cassette tapes.
  • by Myself ( 57572 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @11:11AM (#51182017) Journal

    You can feel the weight balance to tell how much of the tape is on one reel versus the other. You can rewind and fastforward by gut-feeling, with no display. Every operation of the player is tactile, and there are no hidden options menus, touchscreens, or any of that crap.

  • In the UK, as a kid I used to record the top 40 chart off radio 1 onto cassette. And then shove the tape in a walkman! That is 3 button presses - Record, rewind, play. Nothing comes close in convenience today. All they need to do is change the radio cassette player and walkman to record to tape using a 16 bit, 24khz digital recording format, and it would easily compete with CD/IPOD
    • Nothing comes close in convenience today.

      I dunno... I've never had to disassemble a CD in an attempt to make it functional again.

    • Do you really remember cassette tapes then? I remember them breaking frequently, getting unspooled, or warping so that parts of the tape were slooowwer than others. They were completely lossy with subsequent copies always losing something from the original. They needed to be copied in real time, unless you had one of those fancy stereos that copied tapes quickly. Forget what that was called and it wouldn't apply to recording things off the radio. Transmitting analog radio is a quality loss all by itself!

      Tha

    • by twosat ( 1414337 )

      Reminds me of this Youtube video with the same title https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • We used cassette tapes for other purposes too... http://www.oldcomputers.net/hp... [oldcomputers.net] We'd save off a program to cassette for storage, and it usually worked the next time you tried to load the program. Follow the link and check out the three people in the picture, ready to get to work!

    The first time I found ample access to a computer (HP 9830A desktop calculator) was at Texas A&M in '76-'77. Its hard to believe that I spent entire nights from dusk to dawn in the math building on campus, learning BASI
    • We'd save off a program to cassette for storage, and it usually worked the next time you tried to load the program.

      For very small values of "usually", in my experience. :(

      I can't even count how many times I went to go load a program lovingly and laboriously saved on a cassette tape, only to find it was gone or just plain didn't #*$%! load.

    • by twosat ( 1414337 )

      In 1987, the PXL-2000, a toy black-and-white camcorder was produced that used standard audio cassettes. I remember being amazed when I saw advertisements on TV for it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • by williamyf ( 227051 ) on Friday December 25, 2015 @12:05PM (#51182161)

    I read TFA last night from ARS itself...

    As soon as I read the summary, I realized they got it backwards.

    From TFA:

    ''In a September article, Bloomberg reported that NAC “has deals with major record labels like Sony Music Entertainment and Universal Music Group as well as a number of small contracts with indie bands. About 70 percent of the company's sales are from music cassettes while the rest are blank cassettes.” ''

    70% pre-recorded; 30% blanks.

  • I grew up in the golden age of audio cassettes. They had lots of great audio features:
    - Tape decks routinely came with specs stating the level of "wow" and "flutter" effects you could expect from the deck, caused by variations in the motor speed and gearing system.
    - Left and right channel tracks routinely bled into each other.
    - Tapes stretched and degraded with each use, further distorting the sound quality.
    - And the hiss...the ever-present hiss! You could turn on Dolby NR, which eliminated a lot of the h

  • Just because a new technology comes along, the older one does not automatically become useless. There are often corner cases which are important for hundreds of thousands of users, or an established user base for which technology works good enough.

    What tapes, floppies, Polaroid or Yahoo's curated internet directory could not fulfil is manyfold growth over short term expected by stock market. We live in a crazy world where a company can make a useful product, provide a living for tens of thousands of employe

  • ... let them have it. It's not as if music is of interest to anyone important.

He's dead, Jim.

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