13/12/2014 7:57 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST

Tape That

Viqi French/Flickr

Just when I was about to bury my old tape recorder, Aamir Khan resurrected the gadget in the trailer of Raju Hirani's yet-to-be-released movie PK. Dismayed by its strategic presence, women wanted to snatch the tape recorder from Aamir's hands. To find the hidden truth. Why else? After all, there is something called scientific temper -- the refusal to accept anything without examining. That's why.

The last time a tape recorder captured our cinematic imagination was when the recorded voice of Rajesh Khanna stunned a grieving Amitabh -- Babu Moshai, Zindagi aur Maut To Uparwale Ke Haath Hai.

Like other tools of popular culture, the tape recorder was a rage in the early eighties. Its demise compels me play the somewhat broken record of my memories. And the tape gets stuck around my red Sony Walkman -- a birthday gift from my father. It was an era when Japanese gadgets like Aiwa, Sony, and Sanyo were synonymous with quality, whereas goods made in China, well, stayed in China. Back then, a Sony Walkman dangling around the neck was in tune with the times. It meant that all was well with the world. For the Apple fed generation, a Walkman was the grandfather of the present generation iPod. Given that street dancing became a popular trend in America those days, it was also called the Boom Box, a ghetto blaster or a jam box.

It was fascinating to be able to record your own favourites in one cassette that played in a loop for hours together. Of course, you could switch on the radio anytime, but listening to your favourite songs was pure delight. The only irritant was buying good quality cassettes. Those with deep pockets preferred good quality branded cassettes like HMV or Sony, but the humble ones opted for locally made brand, T-series.

Among other things, the tape recorder imparted an important lesson. Like warning me to never, ever sing in public. I remember recording a few lines in solitude. After listening to my own voice on tape, I realised that if I wanted to keep friends, I had to stay away from singing. What amplified the fun was the fact that the tape recorder allowed the freedom to carry your own music on a road trip. What bliss it was to listen to tap your feet to the beat of George Michael's 'Faith' or groove to the rhythm of 'Walk like an Egyptian' by Bangles. The music connected to a part of us that was forever happy -- blissful.

All in all, tape recorders were the coolest thing that happened to music until the arrival of the portable revolutionary iPods. Revolutionary, because you could store as many as 40,000 songs in your pocket with a storage capacity of 160 GB. Like Sony, Apple changed the way we listened to music. Even as I write, fans are mourning the quiet death of iPod Classic, after a brief life span of seven years.

In a world dominated by technology, where gadgets are becoming smaller and lighter -- the demise of the tape recorder was not surprising. It is now time to listen to music on the Apple wristwatch -- a 'wearable device'. Of course, it will tell the time among other things. Only, you can't use it as an effective undergarment. Or maybe Aamir Khan can. For all I know, or care, Aamir's wife will be the right person to talk about it.

(This post originally appeared in the blog Freebird.

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