Cassette

A French word meaning “little box.” A cassette is a magnetic tape sound recording format. The cassette was originally intended for dictation, but improvements in fidelity led the Compact Cassette to supplant reel-to-reel tape in most non-professional applications. Uses for the cassette include portable audio, home recording, and data storage for early computers. Between the 1960s and early 1980s, the cassette was one of the three most common formats for prerecorded music along with the LP and the Compact Disc. Cassettes consist of two miniature spools, between which a magnetic tape is passed and wound. These spools and their attendant parts are held inside a protective plastic shell. Two stereo pairs of tracks (four total) or two monaural audio tracks are available on the tape; one stereo pair or one monophonic track is played or recorded when the tape is moving in one direction and the second pair when moving in the other direction. This reversal is achieved either by manually flipping the cassette or by having the machine itself change the direction of tape movement (“auto-reverse”).

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