On Cassette Tapes, Technology and Breakdancing

I have spent a little bit of time with some dancers, recently. In doing so, I have been able to reminisce/converse about the only “dancing” that I have every really done. I am, of course, referring to break dancing. When I was in fourth grade (or thereabouts), the movie “Breakin’” was released. For those who may not have had the pleasure of watching this fine piece of choreographed cinema: “Breakin’” is the story of Turbo, Ozone and Special K. All three live in Venice Beach during the seedy 80’s, and are brought together by dancing.

After seeing the movie, as a youngster, I was inspired to become a break dancer. I boned up on cardboard, bandanas and parachute pants, and went for it. For Christmas, I asked for a “ghetto blaster” (which Santa delivered on). This was the era of tapes. In fact, it was the primitive era of tapes. Well, for me anyway. It was before the dual tape deck was a standard feature on cassette players.

My parents were young, and budgets were tight. So I had to be resourceful when it came to supplying my ghetto blaster with media. Times were tight enough, that purchasing blank cassettes could be justified. I was relegated to collecting discarded and broken tapes, so that I could record music from the radio. I learned that I could put a piece of scotch tape over the little holes in the top of cassettes that had been write-protected, to record over them.  If the actual tape had been cut or broken, I found that scotch tape could also remedy that situation by being carefully overlaid to join the two sections. This also came in handy when the cassette was “eaten,” leaving a large section of the tape looking like it had been run through a crimping iron. I could cut out the destroyed section of the tape, and splice together the two undamaged spools.

I used to spend hours listening to the radio with my finger on the “record” key of my little ghetto blaster waiting for the DJ to play a certain song, so that I could capture it on my frankentape. A lot of the times I would miss the first couple of bars. Amazing the way that times have changed. I was able to pull up this video of the opening credits to Breakin’ in 2 seconds without even typing the name correctly. Enjoy “There’s no Stoppin’ us.”

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  1. I made so many mix tapes by doing exactly the same thing: sitting by the radio for hours and hitting “Record” right when the song I wanted started. I spent a lot of time listening to the radio as a kid and I miss that. Kind of sad that kids these days don’t get that experience. Radio and DJs were a totally different experience then.

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