Letters to my digital native children: my cassette tapes

Hi Kabouter,
Hi Beertje,

I have a confession to make. I have hidden a treasure in the living room cupboards on the top shelves that you cannot see or access.

On that top drawer are between 100 and 200 little plastic boxes.  You can open each one of them and there's something really strange in it: a plastic rectangular with 2 turning wheels in the middle and a bit of visible tape on top.

It's my collection of music until I was grown up. Yes those little things hold music, a long time before music was on my mobile phone.  In fact, mobile phones did not exist yet but that's another story for later.

So these things are called "cassette tapes" and I received my first one when I was 5-6 years old. My sister gave me on which she recorded a requested song for me from the radio  "Beat-it" from Michael Jackson and also "We hebben allemaal een neus" from Vader Abraham.   Yep...quite eclectic. Later on, I received a cassette tape from Kinderen Voor Kinderen.  I could play them on the little flat tape player that I could borrow from my dad now and then.

When I was ten, my sister - your aunt - went on a youth exchange to Canada for an entire year and she left her room empty as a big playground to me. I did not only familiarize with her cassette player, but also with her closet shelf full of cassette tapes with 70ies and 80ies music.  Next to Kinderen voor Kinderen, I discovered The Cure, U2, Simple Minds, Rod Stewart, De Kreuners, Fleetwood Mac, ...  A whole new world opened to me!

When I was 12, I got my own cassette player. It was a double one!! I could play a cassette on the left side and I could put another one on the right hand side which had the recording buttons.  From then on I was on a mission to record my favourite music.

Each week the Knack weekly magasine arrived and I opened it up quickly to find the listings of the hit parade. I tracked which new numbers entered the hit parade and which ones had moved up or down. I memorised the order of the numbers. I knew which songs I liked or not.  And on Saturday noon I was ready (unless we were still at the lunch table): my tape on the right hand side was in position for recording. The recording buttons were already pushed down so I only had to release the pause button on the right moment. The listing of the hit parade was next to me.  The difficulty in the recording was to start in time but to not to get a lot of talking recorded. 

Also the rest of the week I was often listening to the radio while I was doing my homework in my room and I always had the tape ready for recording.  It was a pain if I just missed a song I wanted or if I started to record and the tape ran into the end as it could only record 45 minutes on each side  (then you had to take it out and turn it around).  It was also important never to put a filled tape on the right hand recording side as I might record some new music over the old. That would have been a disaster.

Then I diligently wrote down the title and performer of what I had recorded, on the little cardboard cover that fit in each cassette box. One line per song.  Each Christmas I asked for a few dozen new empty cassette tapes as a gift.

If I was not listening to the radio, I was playing my own music in the left side of my tape recorder. I started by listening to tape 1, then tape 2, then tape 3, ... to ensure to keep a good mix. I knew them by heart and could start singing the next song beforehand. I also knew some of the DJ talking that got recorded by accident by heart.

The result of all those years of recording and replaying until the little magnetic band in the tapes got damanged, lays on that top shelf. We don't have a cassette player in the house anymore. But it's a nostalgic treasure of memories. One day, I'll find a cassette player and we'll listen to some of these together...and you'll roll your eyes, I'm sure.


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