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Rewind and slow forward: The history of the music cassette and why it refuses to die – Global News



People of a certain vintage couldn’t help feel a twinge of sad nostalgia earlier this month with the news of the death of Lou Ottens, the inventor of the cassette.

In the very early 1960s, when working as an engineer on the new product development team at Phillips, the Dutch electronics manufacturer, Ottens had a mishap with an old-school, reel-to-reel machine that saw a bunch of tape uncontrollably unspool on the floor This caused him a great deal of irritation, prompting him to assign his people to come up with a better solution. He set out to build something much more user-friendly.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Let’s please stop pretending there’s a ‘cassette resurrection’ (Alan Cross, Aug. 26, 2018)

By 1962, working at the offices in Hasselt, Belgium, a goal was set: Could a reel-to-reel mechanism be shrunk to the size of a wooden block that could fit inside a shirt pocket? After another year’s work, the Compact Cassette — two tiny reels inside a plastic case — was unveiled at the Berlin Radio Show (the Funkausstellung) to great amazement.

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The audio quality wasn’t great. The tape was just 3.81 mm wide and moved at a glacial 1 7/8 inches per second, originally enough for 30 minutes of recording time per side. But since the vision was to use the new format for simple office dictation duties, that wasn’t a problem.

The cassette created much industrial jealousy, too. German manufacturers Grundig and Telefunken, as well as several Japanese electronics companies, were working on their own version of the cassette and adoption of Ottens’ invention wasn’t assured. It wasn’t until Phillips made a licensing deal with Sony in 1965 that the Compact Cassette became the de facto standard for the planet.

Pre-recorded cassettes first appeared in 1965 under the name “Music-Cassettes” with the release of 49 titles. Better tape formulations followed as ferric oxide gave way to chromium dioxide and then metal particles. By the 1970s, cassette machines were an essential part of any audio system both in the home and in the car.

Sales really took off in the 1980s after the introduction of the Sony Walkman and other portable music devices and for a brief time, the cassette was the best-selling pre-recorded music format. As late as the early 1990s, cassettes outsold the compact disc (another format that Ottens had a hand in inventing).

Click to play video: 'Artist uses tape cassettes for music experimentation'

Artist uses tape cassettes for music experimentation

Artist uses tape cassettes for music experimentation – Mar 10, 2020

Over the decades, more than 100 billion cassettes entered the global marketplace, including billions of blanks that were turned into mixtapes. But with the rise of CDs, file-sharing, iTunes, digital music devices, and streaming, the need for the cassette disappeared.

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Good riddance, I say. Cassettes served their purpose in the era before digital. Now it’s time to get rid of the cursed things.

Why? Let me count the ways.

They jammed. Melted in the sun. The hinges on the cases broke if you looked at them funny. The transparent cases didn’t stay transparent, cracking, scratching, and clouding up. Even the best and more carefully recorded cassettes were plagued with hiss and relatively poor frequency response. Many pre-recorded cassettes sounded awful. The J-cards (what passed for artwork with pre-recorded tapes) often held zero liner notes. They fell into the footwells of cars and got kicked under seats. Glove compartments were littered with them.

Mixtapes had to be made in real-time, meaning that between selecting the music to record and committing it to tape, it took at least 90 minutes to make a 60-minute mixtape. And then there was the frustration of trying to fill up each side of the tape as much as possible so you didn’t have a bunch of silence right at the end. (I became something of a ninja master of gauging how much time was left on the side of a tape just by looking at it.)

Most of those who are nostalgic for cassettes weren’t around when we had no other choice when it came to making our music portable.

But for some reason, the cassette continues to be fetishized as something that needs to be preserved. There’s this weird nostalgia for a piece of technology that no longer serves any kind of useful purpose. They have zero reason to exist.

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FROM THE ARCHIVES: The rise and fall of A&B Sound — Iconic record store chain went bankrupt 10 years ago

Yes, there have been reports of a boom in cassette sales, but don’t believe the hype. MCR/Nielsen Canada doesn’t even track sales of pre-recorded cassettes. Its weekly sales and streaming report follows CDs, digital albums, digital tracks, streaming, and vinyl LPs. Cassettes are lumped into a category called “other.” Of the 3.8 million pre-recorded pieces of plastic sold last year, cassettes were only a tiny fraction. Last week’s report shows that 1,787 “other” units sold year-to-date in the country — and that figure also includes music DVDs.

Yes, there’s Cassette Store Day (est. 2013) each fall, but its success is light years away from what Record Store Day has done to vinyl. Last year, there was an increase of 103 per cent in cassette sales in the U.K. which sounds great until you realize that brought the total number to about 100,000 units in a global recorded music industry that’s worth US$20 billion. Big deal.

But who are these people who insist cassettes are great? They can be broken down into several groups.

  1. Luddite Hipsters: For this group, the inconvenience of cassettes in the digital era allegedly demonstrates how much more they love music than everyone else. “See what I’m willing to endure for an authentic music listening experience?” They go on about the care that goes into creating mixtapes, saying that they’re compiled with more of a human touch than another digital playlist. Fine. You go with that.
  2. Curiosity: They’re being sold by artists as tchotchkes and collector’s items. How many of the pre-recorded cassettes are actually being played? How many people even have a working cassette machine around the house? And have you tried to buy a new one lately?
  3. Emerging Nations: Cassettes can be rugged when it comes up to the heat and dust in some locales. As recently as 2019, I walked into a store in Bali that was loaded with pre-recorded cassettes for sale.
  4. Japan: It may be the land of the electronic gadget, but walk into any small store and you’ll find packages of cassettes for sale. Parts of Japanese culture are very conservative and continue to hang on to the old ways. (Tip: Need a fax machine? Japan is your place.)
  5. Prison Releases: Enough people are incarcerated in the U.S. — about two million as of 2020 — for convicts to be a viable music market. CDs are forbidden in jails because they can be turned into shivs. MP3 players are allowed but without internet access, they’re useless. Vinyl? Hardly. The only remaining option is the lowly cassette. Companies like Fortress Audio and offer blank cassettes made with clear shells (to prevent smuggling) and without any screws (to reduce weaponization) specifically for prison use.
  6. Chart competition: Want to boost your position on the music charts? Offer your new album in an extra format. Your hardcore fans will stream the record, buy the vinyl, pick up the CD, and grab the cassette. If your fanbase is rabid enough, cassette sales could account for another 1,000 to 10,000 sales, enough to make a difference in your chart position.

If cassettes are your thing, please enjoy.

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But as for those of us who care about true portability, high fidelity, and convenience, please keep your tape fetish to yourself.

Alan Cross is a broadcaster with Q107 and 102.1 the Edge and a commentator for Global News.

Subscribe to Alan’s Ongoing History of New Music Podcast now on Apple Podcast or Google Play

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Canada’s Telesat takes on Musk and Bezos in space race to provide fast broadband



By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Telesat is racing to launch a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation to provide high-speed global broadband from space, pitting the satellite communications firm founded in 1969 against two trailblazing billionaires, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Musk, the Tesla Inc CEO who was only a year old when Telesat launched its first satellite, is putting the so-called Starlink LEO into orbit with his company SpaceX, and Inc, which Bezos founded, is planning a LEO called Project Kuiper. Bezos also owns Blue Origin, which builds rockets.

Despite the competition, Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s chief executive officer, voices confidence when he calls Telesat’s LEO constellation “the Holy Grail” for his shareholders – “a sustainable competitive advantage in global broadband delivery.”

Telesat’s LEO has a much lighter price tag than SpaceX and Amazon’s, and the company has been in satellite services decades longer. In addition, instead of focusing on the consumer market like SpaceX and Amazon, Telesat seeks deep-pocketed business clients.

Goldberg said he was literally losing sleep six years ago when he realized the company’s business model was in peril as Netflix and video streaming took off and fiber optics guaranteed lightning-fast internet connectivity.

Telesat’s 15 geostationary (GEO) satellites provide services mainly to TV broadcasters, internet service providers and government networks, all of whom were growing increasingly worried about the latency, or time delay, of bouncing signals off orbiters more than 35,000 km (22,200 miles) above earth.

Then in 2015 on a flight home from a Paris industry conference where latency was a constant theme, Goldberg wrote down his initial ideas for a LEO constellation on an Air Canada napkin.

Those ideas eventually led to Telesat’s LEO constellation, dubbed Lightspeed, which will orbit about 35 times closer to earth than GEO satellites, and will provide internet connectivity at a speed akin to fiber optics.

Telesat’s first launch is planned in early 2023, while there are already some 1,200 of Musk’s Starlink satellites in orbit.

“Starlink is going to be in service much sooner … and that gives SpaceX the opportunity to win customers,” said Caleb Henry, a senior analyst at Quilty Analytics.

Starlink’s “first mover” advantage is at most 24 months and “no one’s going to lock this whole market up in that amount of time,” Goldberg said.

Telesat in 2019 signed a launch deal with Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin. Discussions are ongoing with three others, said David Wendling, Telesat’s chief technical officer.

They are Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Europe’s ArianeGroup , and Musk’s SpaceX, which launches the Starlink satellites. Wendling said a decision would be taken in a matter of months.

Telesat aims to launch its first batch of 298 satellites being built by Thales Alenia Space in early 2023, with partial service in higher latitudes later that same year, and full global service in 2024.


The Lightspeed constellation is estimated to cost half as much as the $10 billion SpaceX and Amazon projects.

“We think we’re in the sweet spot,” Goldberg said. “When we look at some of these other constellations, we don’t get it.”

Analyst Henry said Telesat’s focus on business clients is the right one.

“You have two heavyweight players, SpaceX and Amazon, that are already pledging to spend $10 billion on satellite constellations optimized for the consumer market,” he said. “If Telesat can spend half that amount creating a high-performance system for businesses, then yeah, they stand to be very competitive.”

Telesat’s industry experience may also provide an edge.

“We’ve worked with many of these customers for decades … That’s going to give us a real advantage,” Goldberg said.

Telesat “is a satellite operator, has been a satellite operator, and has both the advantage of expertise and experience in that business,” said Carissa Christensen, chief executive officer of the research firm BryceTech, adding, however, that she sees only two to three LEO constellations surviving.

Telesat is nailing down financing – one-third equity and two-thirds debt – and will become publicly traded on the Nasdaq sometime this summer, and it could also list on the Toronto exchange after that. Currently, Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board and Loral Space & Communications Inc are the company’s main shareholders.

France and Canada’s export credit agencies, BPI and EDC respectively, are expected to be the main lenders, Goldberg said. Quebec’s provincial government is lending C$400 million ($317 million), and Canada’s federal government has promised C$600 million to be a preferred customer. The company also posted C$246 million in net income in 2020.

Executing the LEO plan is what keeps Goldberg up at night now, he said.

“When we decided to go down this path, the two richest people in the universe weren’t focused on their own LEO constellations.”

($1 = 1.2622 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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$600K donation to boost online mental health programming in Nova Scotia



Nova Scotia Health’s mental health and addictions program hopes to offer more online support to people across the province after receiving a significant donation this week.

The QEII Foundation announced that RBC is contributing $600,000 toward the province’s e-mental health programming.

“It’s particularly important for the current time under all the strains of COVID,” said Dr. Andrew Harris, a psychiatrist and the senior medical director for the program.

The plan for online programming has been in the works for years, he said, but the pandemic expedited the push. Last June, the department launched a number of applications that can be used to help those with anxiety, depression and addictions.

Since then, as many as 3,000 Nova Scotians have used the site to access mental health services.

“There’s a persistent difficulty in accessing services,” Harris said of traditional models in Nova Scotia. He said those who don’t need intensive therapy may find the support they need through the online programs.

He uses the example of someone who can’t take time off work to speak to a clinician.

“It’s better for them to be able to access a service after hours or on the weekend. So our e-mental health services are tailored a little bit to meet that need.”

Calls to crisis line increase

Harris said the province’s mental health crisis line continues to see a 30 per cent increase in calls for help, so he’s trying to raise awareness that services can be accessed immediately online.

“I think everyone is aware that for a lot of people it’s much easier to talk about a physical illness than a mental illness. So there’s an allowance there for privacy, for some anonymity but still making available things that can help the person who is struggling in the community.”

The online portal has a list of programs that people can use, covering things like reducing stress, solving problems and becoming mindful. It mirrors a site in Newfoundland and Labrador that Harris said is used to help people in remote areas.

Harris said the donation from RBC will be used to continue to evaluate more services, and pay for the licensing of the products that are mostly developed by other organizations.

He encourages anyone who is struggling to test out the site, and use it as an entry point into the mental health system.

“It’s important for people to acknowledge when they’re struggling. It happens to all of us through our lives in different times.”

Anyone in Nova Scotia looking to access the tools can visit:


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Samsung’s cheapest 5G Galaxy phones yet are launching this month




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  • Samsung is launching five new phones in its Galaxy A series this month.
  • Three of them will support 5G connectivity, and the most expensive phone is just $500.
  • The cheapest phone of the five still has three cameras but lacks 5G and other features.
  • See more buying advice on the Insider Reviews homepage.

Samsung may be best known for its high-end Galaxy S phones that rival the iPhone. But the tech giant is proving that it can appeal to cost-conscious customers with the launch of five new smartphones in the United States, the priciest of which only costs $500.

Samsung’s new lineup of budget phones, which debuted in other markets before coming to the US, are all launching this month. Some of them will be released as soon as this week, while the least expensive model will debut on April 29. The launch comes as competitors like Apple and Google have also been focusing on cheaper smartphones to boost sales.

Three of these new Samsung devices also support 5G, another sign that shoppers no longer have to pay a premium to get access to next-generation wireless networks. All five of the new phones also have the traditional headphone jack for wired listening and run on an octa-core processor.

Here’s a look at the new Samsung Galaxy A series phones that will be launching soon.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Galaxy A52 5G_Awesome Black_Front_Back


  • Release date: April 9
  • Price: $499.99

The Galaxy A52 5G is the most expensive smartphone of the bunch. It comes with a 6.5-inch FHD+ screen and a quad-camera system that includes some of the same features as Samsung’s more expensive Galaxy S phones. These include Single Take, which creates several different photos or video clips with different effects with a single press of the shutter button.

Its screen can also boost its refresh rate up to 120Hz for smoother scrolling and performance, a feature that has become common on pricier flagship phones but is rare on cheaper models. It’s also the only phone in this A-series lineup to include Samsung’s notch-free screen design.

Samsung Galaxy A42 5G

Galaxy A42 5G_Prism Dot Black_Front_Back


  • Release date: April 8
  • Price: $399.99

The less expensive Galaxy A42 5G has a slightly larger screen than the A52 5G, but scales back on certain features when it comes to the camera and screen refresh rate.

Still, it has a triple-lens camera with high-resolution sensors, and like its pricier sibling it also supports Single Take.

Samsung Galaxy A32 5G

GalaxyA32 5G_Awesome Black_Front


Release date: April 9

Price: $279.99

The Galaxy A32 5G is Samsung’s cheapest 5G smartphone to date. It has a large 6.5-inch screen, but it’s made from an LCD panel instead of Super AMOLED. That means it will likely lack some of the contrast and boldness of Samsung’s other devices. But Samsung hasn’t skimped on the camera considering this model has a quad-lens main camera, which is rare if not unheard of at that price.

Samsung Galaxy A12

Galaxy A12_Black_Back


Release date: April 9

Price: $179.99

Samsung’s Galaxy A12 doesn’t come with 5G support, but it still gives you a lot for the price. For less than $200, you’re getting a quad-lens camera and a large 6.5-inch LCD screen. But remember this phone only has 32GB of storage, so it’s best suited for those who don’t store a lot of photos and videos on their device.

Samsung Galaxy A02s

Galaxy A02s_Black_Front


  • Release date: April 29
  • Price: $109.99

The Galaxy A02s is Samsung’s cheapest phone, offering a 6.5-inch LCD screen and three main cameras. It doesn’t have 5G support or as much computing power or camera prowess as Samsung’s other A-series phones, but that’s to be expected for a device at this price. This phone is truly for those who just need the basics and little else.

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Source:- Business Insider

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