Philips Audio Cassette Tape


The Philips compact audio cassette is a device that revolutionized the way we record and format audio storage. Audi cassette tapes could be played aloud by using cassette players or cassette recorders. The audio cassette tapes ultimately helped fuel the music industry by empowering people to self-publish and share their music.


Phillips invented first compact audio cassette tape for audio storage in 1962. Due to Philips licensing the technology to other companies for free the compact audio cassette became the standard formatting for audio storage throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s.


People used the audio cassette tapes in their daily lives to record and listen to audio. The audio cassette tapes were used for recording, listening, and creating audio. I asked my mother about her experience with how she used audio cassette tapes in her daily lives in the past. My mom said:

 “I used audio cassette tapes to make playlists of music! I played the cassette tapes in my car in high school! I also had many different devices that let allowed me to play tapes aloud.”

This is one example of how the audio cassette tapes were used during this time. 


Why was the device used?

People used the Phillips audio cassette tapes because they could store high-quality audio on a format that is much smaller than even seen before in the world. Prior to the audio cassette tapes people widely recorded and listened to audio on Vinyl. Vinyl is much larger than audio cassette tapes, which is one of the main reasons why audio cassette tapes became the standard formatting for audio storage around the world.

How does this artifact function?

Audio cassette tape works similarly to a vinyl. To learn how both devices work, you must learn about the way sound functions. All sounds travel in waves and looks like [Figure 7] below. These wave lengths are store on magnetic strips. The wave lengths information is stored and read on the magnetic strip inside the audio cassette tape, this is how the audio cassette tape functions in simple terms.  

What are it's inner workings?

A cassette tape is covered with magnetic particles that consist of iron oxide or chromium oxide. The particles are shaped like tiny needles and they are as small as 400 million per inch. The particles are mixed into a binder and under extreme condition they are transferred into wide rolls of polyester plastic film. The polyester plastic film is then cut into 3.8mm-wide strips. The 3.8mm wide strips have the capability to store audio wavelengths information. The 3.8mm-wide strips in the Philips audio cassette tape can play record and play audio.  

Social Context

The social context around audio cassette tapes was that is was the new standard format for recording and storing audio. Audio cassette tapes became the new standard for audio because of the how product fulfilled the consumer’s needs. The audio cassette tapes sales rose massively in the late 80’s early 90’s due to the free licensing of the audio cassette tapes. Philips created the audio cassette tape with no restriction on other companies creating the audio cassette tapes. This led to a massive increase in production of audio cassette tapes all over the globe. The US cassette tapes sales are seen in [Figure 8] below. The increase of cassette tapes sales can be directly linked to the free licensing of the audio cassette tape globally.

Social Impacts

The social impacts of the audio cassette tape were massive across the world. People during this time would use audio cassette tapes as their go about their daily lives. Listening in the car, outside, inside, as they are moving. The audio cassette tapes and players allowed people to listen to music and audio in an entire new. It introduced mobility and privacy to the world of listening to music via Sony Walkman. People can now to music through using portable headphones which changed a lot of social interactions with people.

What technology replaced it, and when?

The technology that replaced audio cassette tapes were compact disks (CD). CDs were developed in 1982 by Philips and Sony and is considered a laser disc technology. This type of technology stored digital information in a much higher concentration then audio cassette tapes did. CDs allowed people to store audio and video on a much large scale then ever seen. CD revolutionized the music industry like audio cassette tapes once did previously. When CDs were introduced to the world people converted their old audio cassette tapes to mp3 and started primary using CD as the standard for storing audio. My dad spoke to me on the phone talking about how he used convert audio cassette tapes to CDs in the late 90s.

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