Thursday, August 9, 2007

Reelin' in the years: Cassette tapes still have their devotees

Though supplanted by CDs and downloads, the sound format is popular with the blind, the religious and others.

August 9, 2007

The first obituaries for cassette tapes appeared more than 20 years ago, when compact discs hit the market. Sales of music tapes plummeted from 442 million in 1990 to about 700,000 last year, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America. Anyone trying to impress a friend with the perfect combination of songs can probably burn a CD or assemble an MP3 playlist in a matter of minutes. They needn't spend hours dubbing the perfect tape as the main character did in the novel and movie "High Fidelity."

But cassette tapes still thrive in specialty markets because of the format's enduring advantages. Executives with the last cassette maker in North America, Lenco-PMC Inc., say the plastic cases -- invented in 1964 to hold two miniature reels for magnetic tape -- remain popular for at least three uses: audio books for the blind, court recordings and religious messages.