Tuesday, October 12, 2010
OLD IS STILL GOLDEN - BATTING FOR AUDIO CASSETTES.
Sitting in front of my several old music players and the collection of gramophone records, I used to wonder about the vast changes that has taken place in listening to music since the invention of Phonograph by Edison and, especially for me, since my father purchased a U.M.S. Radio in 1960 and I purchased a Philips transistor radio (VICTOR) in 1970. The hand wound gramophones of Victor, Columbia, HMV and other brands, the common music players of my childhood days, were replaced by the electrically operated record players, mainly of HMV and Philips. The picture of the lovable dog, Nipper by name, peering into the horn of the hand winding gramophone was one of the most familiar( now nostalgic) and famous logo of all time for music lovers. In fact, for many including the not so old, the word gramophone instantly brings this picture in their mind. Many old timers will also remember the small tin container with the needles of the gramophone.
The electrically operated record players like HMV Fiesta (combo) and several other Philips players were followed by Stereo Systems in the early 70s. Stereo players, Amplifiers and speakers were flooding the market for about two decades. Again Philips and HMV were dominating the local markets for players and speakers and Cosmic, Sonodyne, Panatronic, Murphy, Bush etc., for amplifiers. HMV's Super Stereo with separate amplifier and speakers and Philips' Hi-Q International were very popular in those days.
At the beginning of the 70s Compact Cassette players started arriving with brands like Sharp and Bush making them in India. Cassette players of Sony, National Panasonic, Hitachi, Akai were also available in grey markets. Cassette players, became hugely popular with its cost effectiveness and easiness to handle.I first bought a 'Sharp brand' cassette player and was thrilled at the easiness with which I could record songs with it. Later I got a similar National Panasonic set . While this set is still with me in good working condition, I don't know where the 'Sharp' set is at present. At first Indian made Cassette tapes were not available. Cassettes
of Sony, BASF, TDK, Hitachi, Philips etc., were the ones available. But much later Indian Cassette tapes like T-Series, Meltrack, Coney etc also arrived bringing down the cost down. Two-in One sets (Radio with Cassette player) of Sony, Panasonic , Akai etc were also a rage in those days. NRIs arriving with impressive foreign made sets was a common sight and such sets were on proud display in drawing rooms like a status symbol. Radiograms (Radio cum record Player) from HMV, Philips, UMS etc were also available in many drawing rooms. There were even Three-in One sets (Radio, Cassette player, Record player combo set) available. A friend of mine from my school days, Mr. Damodaran to be exact, had purchased such a set in the 70s and we used to listen to it for long hours in those days. A couple of months back, i.e.,after about four decades, he brought it to me in a state of disrepair with major parts missing . It was lying with him all these years uncared for as his efforts to get it repaired were in vain. He told me that he had lost his old radio, HMV radiogram and other musical gadgets which were familiar to me also. Well, the Three-in-one set has now been brought back to good working condition, of course, after a lot of efforts and expenditure. This portable Radiogram is cute and looks like a briefcase when closed.
By the middle of the 90s CD players and CDs arrived in the market in a big way and we have since seen rapid changes in equipments and listening tastes. Big music systems, Home Theatre Systems, DVD players, portable music gadgets like MP3, MP4,Mp5 players and mobile phones with music players have come to stay. USB flash drives and MM/SD Cards loaded with music are also there. Naturally Cassette players have almost vanished from the scene like its forerunner, the record players.
Like some of us who are still nostalgically bound with old valve radios and gramophones, I am sure there will be several music enthusiasts who still love their cassette players and would prefer to listen to music on them and to record their favourite songs from the radio directly on tapes. It is true, tapes may get caught in the pinch rollers, old tapes may produce hissing noise and tapes may get affected by moisture in the air etc. But , to them, the music coming through them will still be heart warming and true. Besides, for recording purposes, the Compact Cassette player is still the easiest. Original casssetts released by HMV,Music India, Music Today, Tharangini etc., offered a store house of authentic information about the song, its composer, lyricist and singer on their inlay cards. Apart from listening to them once in a way, it is precisely for this reason that I preserve my audio cassettes. For the real cassette lovers this is the time to get their old equipments repaired/serviced and kept in good condition as more and more repairers are becoming indifferent to repairing them eventhough spare parts are still available. They will also do well to buy and keep on stock a few blank cassettes before they vanish from the markets.
Well, happy listening with cassete players!!!
P.S.Please click on the photos for details.