My earliest recollections of the radio were of my dad listening to the Cleveland Orchestra on WCLV. Concertos and symphonies would fill the downstairs at night. He also played records, carefully setting the needle down onto the grooved vinyl surface. I loved waiting through the snaps and crackles until the music started.
By the time I was old enough to start buying my own music, cassette tapes were rocketing to the height of popularity. Combined with the Sony Walkman, there was nothing cooler than popping a tape into your Walkman and going out for a run.
Of course, no need for weight training at that time because lugging that "portable" tape player on a run was the equivalent of having 5-pound weights strapped to your arms.
Today, microscopic ipods and MP3 players, which weigh about the same as a marshmallow, effortlessly shift through songs continuously. With the Walkman and the cassette tape, it was a bit more complicated.
Once one side finished, the operator had to push the eject button, take the tape out, flip it over, put it back in and press play, all while continuing to run in a straight line.
Kids have it so easy today. Like a song? Go to iTunes and download it immediately onto an ipod. Back in the day, acquiring favorite songs -- without paying for them -- involved a little more planning.
First, we had to get blank cassette tapes. Once that tape was cued to the correct position, the waiting game began. We had to listen to the radio until that one favorite song came on. Of course, as soon as you wanted to record a song from the radio, they never played it.
And you couldn't stray too far from the radio because you had to hit play and record at the exact moment the song began.
IF IT WAS a popular song, which was usually why I was recording it, the DJs loved to introduce the song through the first four measures, ruining the entire recording and sending the recorder back to the drawing board.
I was cleaning out an old dresser drawer recently when I came across a stash of cassette tapes. Hidden among Madonna (don't tell my mom, that one was censored at my house), Cyndi Lauper, Bon Jovi and Chicago were some old mix tapes. For you young whipper snappers, that is a compilation of a person's favorite, most meaningful songs.
It was the way to go when looking for the perfect gift. Friends made them for friends, girlfriends for boyfriends, etc. The process of creating the perfect mix took hours. Once the songs were found, they had to be recorded onto a blank tape that was rewound and fast forwarded a million times until the masterpiece was finished.
The mix tapes I found were mostly from my college days. They brought back lots of memories. One reminds me of a trip to Oregon to visit a friend. Another is filled with angsty songs from the Indigo Girls, Odd Girl Out and 10,000 Maniacs that got me through finals and any other trauma during college.
There is a mix tape of Beatles songs that reminds me of my brother and another put together by my college roommate.
The best part of my discovery, though, was a tape created by my little brother. He must have been about 10 at the time and recorded an entire "talk show" set during a fictitious hurricane. I know what he's getting for Christmas.
Cassette tapes died a quick death with the dawn of compact discs and I must admit I haven't thought of them in years. I think it's time to dust off the old tape player and pop in a few mixes for a ride down memory lane.
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