Sunday, Nov 19, 2017
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Kirk Baird

CULTURE SHOCK

Despite nostalgia, some things are gone for good

  • TRIBECA-FILM-FESTIVAL

    One recent example of embracing nostalgia: The White Stripes released remastered versions of their first three albums on limited-edition cassette tapes.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

  • Kirk-baird-mug-1

What price is nostalgia?

If you're a fan of cassette tapes and the band White Stripes it was $8.

TRIBECA-FILM-FESTIVAL

One recent example of embracing nostalgia: The White Stripes released remastered versions of their first three albums on limited-edition cassette tapes.

ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

The remastered and limited-edition cassette set of the White Stripes' first three records was released as part of Cassette Store Day earlier this month.

It seems, as has been reported for months, that the cassette tape, the joy and bane of ’80s youth, is making a kinda-sorta-maybe comeback.

And, yes, I'm speaking of those cassettes with their thin strip of magnetic tape that unraveled faster than Harvey Weinstein's career, and plastic cases that melted almost as quickly under intense heat.

Nostalgia has a way of making even obsolete relics appealing, such as the resurgence of vinyl records.

But not everything.

In fact, I can think of many technologies that are gone for good, like the 8-track tape and VHS videocassette.

Kirk-baird-mug-1

Enlarge

■ DAT (digital audio tape). DAT was a cassette-like format but with digital audio instead of analog. DAT debuted in 1987, so a few years after the compact disc, the rival it was intended to replace. DAT could be recorded and erased and recorded again, and was far more portable than a CD. I remember a store called Disc ‘n’ DAT that sold both formats. Roughly a year after Disc 'n' Dat opened, it was gone. Consumers never warmed up to DAT, but the record industry kept the format alive for nearly two decades in studios. Click bit.ly/2gMt8x8 for a comparison of DAT and others formats and bit.ly/2i6BrR5 for more than you ever wanted to know about DAT.

Subscription TV services. Long before Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Showtime became stand-alone streaming services, subscription TV services ONTV, Preview, SelecTV, Vue TV were the only way many of us could watch Private Benjamin at home before it was released on Betamax. For anyone without cable in the late ’70s and early ’80s, these subscription services were a godsend. Or perhaps you knew someone whose dad bought a descrambler and had access to these channels for free?

■ Console TVs. There was a time when TVs and stereos weren’t just electronics but living room furniture. Encased in fancy wood cabinets with faux drawers often below the TV, and possibly an AM-FM receiver with an attached record and 8-track player at the top. The tops of console TVs made for great displays of family photos, household knickknacks, and newer, better, and smaller TVs. See bit.ly/2xqY8WE for Zenith TV commercial and bit.ly/2yP36hq for console TV with record player, stereo, and speakers built into the handsome cabinet.

Pong gaming systems. Retro gaming is all the rage, with the NES and SNES Classics, emulation gaming on the PC, tablets and phones, and Raspberry Pi. Some even choose to collect the old systems like the Atari 2600. But Pong is not coming back. Ever. Sure you can play it via an App like the Atari Games bundle, but gathering a group around the TV for a late-night party of Pong Olympics on a Pong system isn't nostalgic; it's just sad.

Floppy discs. Perhaps you remember the 3.5-inch plastic floppy disk, that wasn't so floppy, or the 5.25-inch floppy disk in the ’80s or even the 8-inch floppy from the ’70s. Then you’re old. You'll also remember what a pain it was to install programs from these disks, and the lengthy load times to play games on disks or even to back-up information to them. 

Even worse, though, were the cassette drives that used data cassettes, which looked exactly like audio cassettes, to store and load software, but took even longer to load than floppy disks.

But don't bother looking for a Floppy Disk Store Day.

Because celebrating an antiquated and limited technology that was never good to begin with is ridiculous.

Contact Kirk Baird at: kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.

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