Throwback Thursday Tech: Take off, Hoser!

We thought we were cool with cassette tapes, but then we made our album choice

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I’ve been a bit lax in my regular “Throwback Thursday Tech” updates - work travel and a bit of vacation helped get in the way. I know, I could have pre-written a few and then post-published them, but that would involve a lot more planning and forethought. Remember, you’re reading a series about a guy whose office desk and home office desk contains artifacts from more than 30 years ago - you’re expecting him to be organized enough to pre-plan posts?

Anyway, I’m working at home again this week, so I ventured downstairs to the home office and dug up this treasure from 1981, a cassette tape featuring the “Great White North” album from Bob & Doug McKenzie.

Let’s tackle a few of the issues here:

#1:Cassette tapes, from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, were the latest method for listening to music, bridging the gap between vinyl albums and compact discs. I’ll ignore 8-track tapes for the purpose of this discussion, although my older brother quite possibly still owns either his “Beach Boys Greatest Hits” or Supertramp’s “Breakfast in America” 8-track (but you’ll have to track him down for confirmation). In my world, at least, cassettes were the newfangled kid in town, especially once the Sony Walkman hit the scene and everyone started carrying their music around with them (it was very hard to carry around a portable record player). While it didn’t seem short-lived at the time, the introduction of compact discs, with their higher quality audio sound, the ability to skip songs easily (you could try and fast-forward a cassette tape but it required a lot of hit-or-miss button mashing) and less-likely to flub up (cassette tapes were often getting tangled) made this a more popular music option.

Fun fact:I know how to use a pencil to un-jam a cassette tape that got all tangled up.

#2:Bob & Doug McKenzie were characters from the TV show “SCTV”, created by Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, in which they mocked Canadian people, but at the time I didn’t realize that (I was only 13 in 1981 and didn’t catch a lot of the nuances of their performance). Their hit single from this album was “Take Off”, which also featured Rush lead singer Geddy Lee on backup vocals.

On Side 2 of the tape you get their version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas”, which you likely have heard if you listen to more modern radio stations that dedicate their programming towards all-holiday-songs-all-the-time during the months of November and December.

#3:A few years I could have digitized these songs via some cool devices that convert cassette tapes into digital format, but considering that I could listen to the album on Spotify now makes that effort seem less worth it. If anyone who doesn’t have Spotify or another music-streaming service would like to receive this tape, make me an offer!

Keith Shaw also rounds up the best in geek video in his ITworld.tv blog. Follow Keith on Twitter at @shawkeith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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