The humble cassette tape has long seemed destined for a dignified death, taking its place beside the rotary dial telephone, the floppy disk and cathode-ray tube televisions in the cobwebbed corners of museums or junk shops. Yet almost 60 years after it was first launched by Philips, the Dutch electronics company, the tape today doggedly endures, finding new fans in an era of digital overload and riding in the slipstream of the so-called vinyl revival.
For many growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, this pocket-size piece of plastic was a prime enabler of musical discovery. The ability to record songs off the radio or other mediums with a blank cassette opened up new possibilities for finding and sharing music, and gave rise to the concept of the mixtape. Cassettes were cheap and fairly durable -- at least until the magnetic tape spilled loose and would need to be wound back in with a pencil stuck through the spool.