Technology has come a long way since the sixties. We now have personal computers, cell phones, and video games. Our cell phones are also personal computers and video games. Our personal computers are also movie theaters and music venues. We have many choices. Back in the sixties, we had a tape recorder.
Oh, my, what a newly purchased tape recorder can do for a kid. A tape recorder, also known as a cassette tape, or compact cassette, was originally designed for dictation. Secretaries all over the world were now able to just push a button instead of sitting across from their boss, steno book and pencil in hand, furiously writing in shorthand. Life was good.
photos via wikipedia
Philips invented the compact audio cassette in 1962, and the first compact cassette, creatively called Compact Cassette, was available for purchase. By 1966, over 250,000 recorders had been sold in the U.S. alone. And guess who had one of them? That’s right, the Mendenhall family.
Now, you have to understand why I was salivating. We really didn’t have much in the way of new fangled technology of any kind. Pong wasn’t even invented yet for use on our television sets. I don’t know if we even shortened the word television to T.V. yet. Our telephones had cords on them, attached to the wall. Oh, yes, I was salivating.
I quickly learned how to use our new Compact Cassette. I believe I was about ten years old at the time. Fourth grade was a memorable time, and now, Dear God, I had a tape recorder.
The excitement was just too much. My mom told me that I could play with it the next day, so I don’t think she was too happy that I woke her up so early.
“Mom, can I use the cassette recorder?”
“Vickie, it’s 6:00 in the morning. Go back to bed.”
“Mom, can I use the cassette recorder now?”
“Vickie, stop it. It’s only 6:30.”
Stupid mom. Birds were up. I heard them chirping. Mom’s were supposed to be up early.
“Hey, Dad, can I use the cassette recorder? It’s 7:00.”
Good Dad. Bad Mom.I was already dressed and ready. I don’t know why I had shoes on, but maybe I would run outside and let the world know that I recorded a message. I ran into the kitchen.There was a little plastic tri-pod that the microphone would sit on. I positioned it close to me. I remember that I was a nervous wreck I put the cassette in the player, and hit the record button. My first recording was thought provoking and highly imaginative.
“Testing. Testing, 1-2-3″…..giggle giggle giggle. Voila!! History was made.
I couldn’t wait to replay it and listen to my voice. I had never heard myself talk before. I looked at my mom, who was fumbling with the coffee pot and mumbling something about killing me.
“That doesn’t sound like me.” I sounded like a little girl. I mean, I was a little girl. I guess I wanted to sound, well, like a newscaster.
“That sounds exactly like you.” my mom replied. She lit her first of 88 cigarettes for the day. She sat in her housecoat at the table, waiting for her coffee to percolate. She wanted to try recording her voice. That pissed me off. I mean, shouldn’t she be in bed?
So, the rest of the Mendenhall family had to go and use MY cassette tape recorder for most of the morning. I went into the living room and watched Casper the Friendly Ghost on the television set. Actually, I have no idea what the hell I watched, but I did watch a cartoon, because our cartoons rocked back then.
Well, the unimaginative family members had their morning of fun with the newly purchased Cassette Recorder and went about their Saturday morning.business. I sat quietly, like a buzzard waiting for a groundhog to get hit by a car. I had plans for this tape recorder.
Oh, the fun I had. My first item on my tape recording agenda was to tape record sounds. I turned on the recorder and rang the doorbell. I slammed a door. I followed the dog around, trying to get him to bark. He wanted no part of me. I called my bff Ramaine and asked her to call me back so I could tape the telephone ringing. I taped anything and everything that I could make a sound out of . What a great weekend.
I had my bff, Ramaine, walk up later in the day. She was even more creative than I was. She would think of something we can use with the newly purchased Cassette Recorder. I do not remember how this was decided, but the next thing you know, we were singing the definition of ‘lima bean” into the tape recorder. I am sure no one else has ever done that before. Ever. We were highly imaginative. We then opened the dictionary again, pointing to a word and singing that definition, too. We laughed and laughed at our choice of leisure activity. She could sing. I, on the other hand, sounded like a drugged up back-up singer for Janis Joplin. Fun time with my bff.
Saturday evening was spy time. I put the recorder beside the couch. I realized that one side of the tape was only 30 minutes long, so I had to think of a way to push the button so my parents wouldn’t see me doing it. I was going to tape record things my parents talk about after we went to bed. What fun!
I waited until my mom went into the kitchen and talked loudly while playing with my dog so my dad wouldn’t hear me press the button. Success! I went to bed and could hardly sleep. I was so excited to spy on my parents. I began thinking bigger, like taping my teacher while we were at lunch. That may have been tricky, as we didn’t have back packs back then.
I woke up on Sunday morning, and ran to the living room. It was 6:00, so I was sure that the fam was still asleep. I re-wound the tape and waited, impatiently. This was going to be so much fun. I loved spying. I hit the play button. It was my mom’s voice. This was fantastic!!
“Vickie, the next time you try to tape record someone without letting them know about it, it would be a good idea to sneak back in the room and turn it off before it makes a loud noise turning itself off……You will have plenty of time trying to figure out how to do this while you are in your room. You are grounded.”
Well, all in all, I had a blast with our newly purchased Cassette Recorder. I interviewed neighbors and friends, taped the sounds of grass cutting, and the Mr. Softie truck making his rounds through the neighborhood. I taped my sister having a temper tantrum. Life was good.
It’s the little things in life that make such a big memory.
And that’s one for the record books…or in this case, tape recorder.