I was, briefly, excited when I saw someone had announced a “Bluetooth Cassette Player.” Brilliant, I thought, a cassette that connects to a phone, so someone can shove it into a tape player in an old car or one of those stereos you find in a garage, giving them a new life.
Unfortunately it’s a device that plays cassettes that can use bluetooth headphones. That’s much less interesting.
I’m a fan of obsolete technology, as regular readers of this space have probably figured out. I just love the idea that things can still be useful, even if the world at large has moved on. An old cassette player might not sound as good as a modern stereo, but I like that it can still be used, that someone is still hooking it up and playing music through it even now. It’s nice to have that old device still have a bit of life.
It should be noted that there are bluetooth cassettes out there, though I don’t know how well they work since I don’t own one. I’m honestly actually tempted to get one, no matter how silly it might seem, because there are plenty of stereos in thrift stores that are suddenly surprisingly good bluetooth speakers.
But while a fan of obsolete technology, I found myself fairly hostile towards a new bluetooth cassette player. I think it’s because my love of obsolete technology doesn’t extend to newly manufactured obsolete technology. Old cassette players that already exist? Drag them out and play them again, use these old devices and prevent them from becoming waste that inevitably will clog up a landfill. Old technology can still function, so the appeal is allowing it to, and enjoying the things that have already been made.
New obsolete technology doesn’t have the same appeal for me. It just feels like waste, because in many cases we have already moved on, often for good reason. There’s no need to buy a new cassette player, because they’re honestly neither as good or convenient as the more modern music streaming setups. If you’re putting high priority on quality, you’re not buying cassettes because they’re fairly bad. The only reason to listen to cassettes, in my mind, is the sheer novelty factor, something that is much more easily enjoyed by going to a garage sale and buying someone else’s cassette player from the 1980s.
In short, bringing cassettes back is a silly gimmick and frankly nobody needs a new one. There are millions of cassette players out in the world that nobody wants, all have much more authentic retro design - because they were designed when retro wasn’t actually retro - and most of them work. They can usually be purchased for $10 and in the process you’re both keeping them out of a landfill and enjoying whatever qualities that gives the format they use appeal. If it breaks, it’s much more interesting to try to fix it than to buy a new alternative. Frankly why anyone would buy a new cassette player is beyond me.
In other words, instead of getting a bluetooth cassette player, it makes much more sense to get the bluetooth cassette.