Cassettes and comebacks


Later this month, the last Sony Betamax cassettes will roll off the production line. The biggest surprise, perhaps, is not its demise but the fact the Betamax brand is still around after losing the videotape format wars with VHS in the 1980s. Despite selling only 3,000 players as long ago as 2002, production endured. With an increasing consumer love of all things retro, here’s a look at other antiquated formats and their chances of a revival

cassettesSony Walkman cassette player  

Lifespan: 1979-2010 The world’s first low-cost portable music player, Sony sold 220 million Walkmans – consumers undeterred by the occasional need to spend hours untangling a chewed tape.
Digital doomsday: The launch of the Sony Discman in the 1980s, which in turn was replaced by Steve Jobs’s iPod in 2001.
Comeback chances? 4/10 The cassette tape has enjoyed a renewed cachet with cassette-only music labels and an international Cassette Store Day.

cassettesThe Typewriter

Lifespan: 1868-2012 (in the UK)
Digital doomsday: The arrival of word processors in the 1980s spelled the end of papers being littered with Tipp-Ex splodges. The last British-made typewriter was packed into its box at the Brother factory in Wrexham.
Comeback chances? 9/10 In 2014, Tom Hanks’s Hanx Writer app, which recreates the “sound and motion” of typewriters, topped Apple’s iTunes Store Chart.

cassettesPolaroid instant camera 

Lifespan: 1947-2008 The 1960s were Polaroid’s heyday, when half of all US households owned one.
Digital doomsday: The early 2000s when the company filed for bankruptcy due to the ascendance of digital photography.
Comeback chances? 10/10 Thanks to millennials craving more tangibility, Polaroid is undergoing a renaissance. Analogue revivalists Impossible Project have saved 200 million Polaroid cameras, selling one million films in 2014.

cassettesFax machines 

Lifespan: 1964-present
Digital doomsday: The advent of email and computer scanning has seen fax machines
all but vanish from the workplace, but the 1980s office mainstay is still being manufactured today.
Comeback chances? N/A Fax machines are still used in the business world, and are often required for transmitting legal signatures.
The official wedding notifications for William and Kate’s 2011 marriage were sent using the technology while 1.2 million fax machines were sold in Japan in 2014.

cassettesThe 3.5in floppy disk 

Lifespan: 1981-2010
Digital doomsday: The introduction of compact discs, followed by USB flash drives and cloud software.
Comeback chances? 1/10. Its once-revolutionary 1.4MB of storage is now barely enough storage to host an average-length pop song. Despite this, it was recently revealed that 8in floppy disks were still the preferred method of computer storage for a US Air Force nuclear silo.


About author

Christian Koch

Christian Koch

Alongside his work for Director, Christian has written features for the Evening Standard, The Guardian, Sunday Times Style, The Independent, Q, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, ShortList and Glamour in an eclectic career which has seen him interview everybody from Mariah Carey to Michael Douglas through to Richard Branson with newspaper assignments including reporting on the Japanese tsunami and living with an Italian cult.

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