Here’s The Norwegian Tape Deck Teardown You’ve Been Waiting For

“They just don’t build ’em like they used to”¬†is a truer statement every year. Whether your vice is CRTs, film cameras, or tape decks, you’ll know that the very best gear simply isn’t manufactured anymore. Even the day-to-day stuff from 60 years ago is often a cut above a lot of today’s equipment. [Anthony Kouttron] shows us this with his teardown of a Tandberg TCD301 from many decades ago.

The Tandberg unit is beautifully finished in wood and metal, a style of construction that’s fairly rare these days. It’s got big, chunky controls, and a certain level of heft that is out of vogue in modern electronics. Heavy used to mean good —¬†these days, it means old. That’s not to say it’s indestructible, though. It’s full of lots of old plastic pulleys and fasteners that have aged over the decades, so it’s a little fragile inside.

Still, [Anthony] gives us a great look at the aluminium chassis and buttons and the electromechanical parts inside. It’s a rats-nest design with lots of discrete components and wires flying between boards. You couldn’t economically produce this and sell it to anyone today, but this is how it was done so many years ago.

This non-functional unit ended up being little more than a salvage job, but we’re still glad that [Anthony] gave us a look inside. Still, if you long for more cassette-themed teardowns, we’ve got the goodness you’re looking for!

Building A Tape Echo In A Coke Can Tape Player That Doesn’t Really Work

Back in the 1990s, you could get a tape player shaped like a can of Coca Cola. [Simon the Magpie] scored one of these decks and decided to turn it into a tape echo effect instead. It didn’t work so well, but the concept is a compelling one. You can see the result in the video below.

The core of the effect is a tape loop, which [Simon] set up to loop around a pair of hacked-up cassette shells. This allows him to place one half of the loop in the Coca-Cola cassette player and the other half in a more conventional desktop tape deck. A 3D-printed bracket allows the two decks and the tape loop to be assembled into one complete unit.

The function is simple. The desktop tape deck records onto the loop, with the Coca-Cola unit then playing back that section of tape a short while later. Hey, presto — it’s a tape delay! It’s super lo-fi, though, and the tape loop is incredibly fragile.

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3D Printing A Cassette Is Good Retro Fun

The cassette is one of the coolest music formats ever, in that you could chuck them about with abandon and they’d usually still work. [Chris Borge] recently decided to see if he could recreate these plastic audio packages himself, with great success.

He kicked off his project by printing some examples of an open source cassette model he found online. The model was nicely accurate to the original Compact Cassette design, but wasn’t exactly optimized for 3D printing. It required a great deal of support material and wasn’t easy to customize.

[Chris] ended up splitting the model into multiple components, which could then be assembled with glue later. He then set about customizing the cassette shells with Minecraft artwork. Details of the artwork are baked into the model at varying heights just 1/10th of the total layer height. This makes it easy to designate which sections should be printed with which filament during his multi-colored print. And yet, because the height difference is below a full layer height, the details all end up on the same layer to avoid any ugly gaps between the sections. From there, it’s a simple matter of transferring over the mechanical parts from an existing cassette tape to make the final thing work.

It’s a neat trick, and the final results are impressive. [Chris] was able to create multicolored cassettes that look great. It’s one of the better uses we’ve seen for a multi-colored printer. This would be an epic way to customize a mixtape for a friend!

We’ve seen some great 3D printed cassettes before, too, like these retro reel-to-reel lookalikes.

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Make Your Music Simpler With The User-Unfriendliest Cassette Deck Ever

Call us crazy, but music was a whole lot more fun when it was on physical media. Or perhaps just easier to use, especially in the car. Whether your particular vintage favored CDs, cassettes, or even 8-tracks, being able to fish out that favorite album and slam it in the player while never taking your eyes off the road was a whole lot easier than navigating a playlist on a locked phone, or trying to control an infotainment system through soft buttons on a touch screen.

It seems like [Jarek Lupinski] is as much a Spotify Luddite as we are, since his “tape-deck” project is aimed to be as user-unfriendly as possible. It’s just an auto-reversing cassette deck movement stripped bare of all useful appurtenances, like a way to fast forward or rewind. You just put a cassette in and it plays, start to finish, before auto-reversing to play the other side in its entirety. It doesn’t even have a volume control — his cheeky advice is to “listen to louder or quieter albums” to solve that problem. Pretty easy, really, and not a EULA or advertisement in sight. Build files are available if you hate yourself enough to build one of your own.

All kidding aside, this is kind of a nice reminder of how much things have changed, and how much complexity we’ve layered onto the simplest of pleasures. If you like the minimalist approach of this project but not the deconstructed aesthetics, we’ve got you covered.

Documenting Real Hidden Messages In Music

During the 1980s, a moral panic swept across the landscape with the mistaken belief that there were Satanic messages hidden in various games, books, and music that at any moment would corrupt the youth of the era and destroy society as we knew it. While completely unfounded, it turns out that there actually were some hidden messages in vinyl records of the time although they’d corrupt children in a different way, largely by getting them interested in computer science. [Dandu] has taken to collecting these historic artifacts, preserving the music and the software on various hidden recordings.

While it was possible to record only programs or other data to vinyl, much in the same way that cassette tapes can be used as a storage medium, [Dandu]’s research focuses mostly on records, tapes, and CDs which had data included alongside music. This includes not only messages or images, but often entire computer programs. In some cases these programs were meant to be used with the accompanying music, as was the case for The Other Side Of Heaven by Kissing The Pink with a program for the BBC Micro. Plenty of other contemporary machines are represented here too including the ZX Spectrum, Atari, Apple II, and the Commodore 64. The documentation extends through the CD era and even into modern music platforms like Spotify and Apple Music.

The process of extraction and recovery is detailed for each discovery, making it a comprehensive resource for retro computing enthusiasts stretching from the 80s to now. There are likely a few hidden pieces of data out there hidden in various antique storage media that [Dandu] hasn’t found yet, either. You could even make your own records with hidden programs provided you have some musical and programming talents, and a laser engraver for the record itself.

A Tape Echo For Anyone

If you’ve ever looked into how artists from the 1960s made their music, you’ll learn about the many inventive ways in which the tape recorder enabled new effects. One of the simplest of those is the tape echo, as distinct from a reverb which introduces the many delayed echoes of a large auditorium, an echo provides a single delayed version of the original. It’s something [Mark Gutierez] shows us as he makes a tape echo from a cheap Walkman-style cassette player. It’s hardly the highest quality of its ilk, but it does the job.

The player in question sports the ubiquitous Chinese mechanism that’s the last still in production. It has a radio incorporated which he doesn’t use, but for all that it has only a permanent magnet erase head rather than one driven from the bias oscillator. He first puts another head in the space between the record head and the pinch roller, then further modifies the cassette so a loop can be pulled out of the side of it, moving all heads off-board. As you can see in the video below the break it’s in no way high-fidelity, but with a couple of Eurorack mixer kits added on it makes for an interesting effect.

If you can lay your hands on a reel-to-reel machine, you can make a more traditional echo machine.

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Persistence Pays In TI-99/4A Cassette Tape Data Recovery

In the three or four decades since storing programs on audio cassettes has been relevant, a lot of irreplaceable personal computing history has been lost to the ravages of time and the sub-optimal conditions in the attics and basements where tapes have been stored. Luckily, over that time we’ve developed a lot of tools and techniques that might make it possible to recover some of these ancient treasures. But as [Noel] shows us, recovering data from cassette tapes is a tricky business.

His case study for the video below is a tape from a TI-99/4A that won’t load. A quick look in Audacity at the audio waveform seems to show the problem — an area of severely attenuated signal. Unfortunately, no amount of boosting and filtering did the trick, so [Noel] had to dig a bit deeper. It turns out that the TI tape interface standard, with its redundant data structure, was somewhat to blame for the inability to read this particular tape. As [Noel] explains, each 64-bit data record is recorded to tape twice, along with a header and a checksum. If neither record decodes correctly, then tape playback just stops.

Luckily, someone who had already run into this problem spun up a Windows program to help. CS1er — our guess would be “Ceaser” — takes WAV file input and loads each record, simply flagging the bad ones instead of just bailing out. [Noel] used the program to analyze multiple recordings of the same data and eventually got enough good records to reassemble the original program, a game called Dogfight — or was it Gogfight? Either way, he managed to get most of the data off the tape, and since it was a BASIC program, it was pretty easy to figure out the missing bytes by inspection.

[Noel]’s experience will no doubt be music to the ears of the TI aficionados out there. Of which we’ve seen plenty, from the TI-99 demoscene to running Java on one, and whatever this magnificent thing is.

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