It’s no surprise to my friends that I’m going to be talking about cassettes in this article. Ever since I found my mom’s dusty Walkman sitting in an old box in the attic, I’ve been obsessed with recording music from my phone to magnetic tape so I can wear a clunky box on my hip and listen to music with questionable quality.
Something about the background hiss and loud motor have this nostalgic effect to me. I have to take a minute or two to rewind or fast forward in order to find songs I want to listen to. It’s objectively inconvenient, but I still take my WM-FX32 to class every day instead of using Spotify or Apple Music.
On top of functional limitations, the old technology breaks constantly. I’ve opened up countless tape players to replace belts, align tape heads, oil motors, re-solder wires — you name it. With media such as Stranger Things and Guardians of the Galaxy, both of which feature Walkmans, prices on eBay have also skyrocketed. This stupid hobby is starting to decimate my bank account.
But, my first year of college, my hometown best friend Morgan Schlimme went above and beyond to make me a mixtape with songs that she was certain I would become enthralled with. After she figured out how to record on the old technology, she gifted it to me with a custom-painted cassette case and 90 minutes of new, uninterrupted music.
The higher notes on “Presumably Dead Arm” wobble as they play. “Walcott” sounds like it’s playing in the room across from me. Still, I can’t get over the feeling of hitting “play” on my player and jamming out in my room or on my way to class. I’ve also gifted mixtapes and Walkmans to some of my closest friends. It feels great to share my interest with people I care about.
At this point, cassette culture has become a way for me to connect with people — to connect with music. I believe the sound quality no longer matters to me, because each tape I play has some story behind it, whether it was created by a friend or structured by me for myself. When I throw in “Sam’s Super Sick Mixtape” from Morgan Schlimme, I’m connected to our friendship even though we’re 200 miles away from each other.
So, my collection of cassettes has joined the pencils and notebooks in my backpack. Colleagues and peers tend to question me when they see my headphones connected to a black and silver box, but it’s really nice to have a plethora of good memories associated with an outdated format.
Also, the '80s were just cool and I’m a hipster, lowkey.