Blog | Miscellaneous

Of Cassette Tapes and Compact Flash Cards

. 2 min read

As I await the arrival of my monitor arm I've put my monitor on a pile of cassette tapes, or rather, the cases. I remember having heated discussions with my classmates, when I was at high school, over the supposed superiority of the Maxwell XLII-S or the TDK SA-X cassette tape over the TDK SA or the Sony UX-S. The snobs, of course, used "type IV" metal tapes.

I remember that the Sony UX-S had a short patch of cleansing tape ahead of the recording tape to clean the tape heads, which upon introduction was considered to be a minor innovation. As a matter of fact you were not supposed to use cleansing tape, but instead had to mess around with cotton buds and some highly expensive liquids that came in two colours, one for the capstan and tape heads and one for the rubber pinch roller.

On a 90 minute tape you were usually able to squeeze two albums, because there is a limit to the amount of music that can be put on an LP. With CD's that's about 72 minutes. With the advent of the CD some artists started making longer albums for which you needed one 90 minute tape. It sometimes took some arithmetic to figure out which tracks to put on which side to make optimal use of the available space on the tape. "Auto reverse" decks never worked for me, because you always missed a tiny fraction of a song during the tape reversal and if a friend didn't have auto reverse on his or her deck you had to re-record the entire album.

I remember spending hours experimenting with the use of Dolby B and Dolby C and trying to find to right recording settings.

I have the feeling that 10 or 20 years from now we will look back at today's Compact Flash and SD cards the way those who still remember them now look back at cassette tapes.

When I bought my first 2 megapixel digital pocket camera I got myself a 128Mb Compact Flash card. A year later I bought a 5 megapixel camera and a 512 Mb card. Shortly after that I acquired my first digital SLR, the Canon 20D, and a 1Gb "Extreme III" card. Then, when I bought the Canon 5D and moved to shooting RAW, 1Gb turned out to be too small for the kind of shoots I do and I started using 8Gb "Extreme III" cards. I wonder to what use I will put them in 20 years.