An example of a hyper-specific niche in a once widely popular platform: Loop cassettes

There are all kinds of convoluted internal pathways, but they do the same thing: Add length to seamlessly continuous playback

@cypnk Hi, this is the Wilsons. We can't come to the phone right now, but please leave your name and number after the beep, and we'll call you back as soon as possible.

@bamfic I probably still have my old machine in the closet somewhere. There were hybrids later that stored the answer digitally, but recorded the message on tape

@cypnk this is cool as shit but I bet it’s a pain in the ass to fix if it messes up

@Ethancdavenport Holy smokes are they ever. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever come across any seriously messed up ones that could be fixed without unscrewing the case

@quirk I love Techmoan videos. The ending sketch is brilliant too. The “TV” is also an old “portable” computer

@cypnk What were these used for originally? Only thing I can thing of is various automated announcement systems, but the examples of systems designs those I can think of all use what ever the tone keying system for standard tapes was. The other obvious ones is various analog synth work, but I am certain that was not the original intent of manufacture.

@vvelox Some of these were used for synth work, but mainly they were used for answering systems and announcements. There were also some models used in elevators although those got replaced quickly when CD arrived

@bezt @vvelox Oh, you're right, some of them are

They did exist as loops similar to these as well

@cypnk None of these would be all that long, even, would they? I wonder how long you could make it without doing something like 8-track or how ink ribbons worked.

@Felthry I would guess most are less than 30 seconds. So theses examples would be used in something like short announcements , even short snippet elevator music, or maybe older answering machines

@cypnk I wonder if some fancy devices might have run multiple tracks on the tape... but then you'd need some way to detect when to switch tracks

@Felthry Some tape decks offered this feature. When the deck A cassette ended both sides, deck B would be rewound and ready to go. I don't know if any models offered more than 2, but I'm sure some small market segment used them. Maybe in retail shops

@cypnk On infinite-loop tape, though, you'd need to splice in a section that can be used to detect the end of the track, like the foil bit on 8-tracks

@Felthry I don't think cassettes had something like that since they had definite starts and stops. As for loops, the whole reason for having an "infinite-loop" is that there are no endings

Tascam made tape decks to time your loop in mixers, I think, but that was a player determined setup. There was no marker on the tape itself

@cypnk Right--what I'm saying is that if you wanted to use multiple tracks on the tape in order to increase the length of a loop, you would have to know when to switch tracks.

@Felthry @cypnk they might be intended for short-use scenarios, like answering machine tapes. Or flight recorders, where you only need to read the last few minutes

@cypnk I made one of these once with some Scotch tape and a regular cassette, I had an idea to make basically a single-oscillator mellotron

@fenwick67 You might enjoy this. These are some *wild* ambient noises (on par with movie special effects) made with loop cassettes

@Purrplenekoboi There's an entire genre dedicated to just that ;)

Some of them are like sci-fi background music, which is awesome

@gudenau Yeah, pretty much. There's a little marker for letting the deck know the album is over, but it's basically one big loop

@spud @cypnk yeah, I've been wondering... how could the other end of the tape come out, once it's been wound around one of those?

@cypnk this is really cool! would you mind explaining 'seamlessly continous playback' a little further/differently for someone with basically no knowledge of tapes other than having used the normal kind?

@presolace So this is a continuous loop of plastic tape, where one end is joined to the other

Ideally, there should be no noticeable "gap" between the two ends so it sounds the same

Then, the loop is folded many times into the shapes you see and placed on the spools. The smaller black pieces are yet smaller spools. All they do is hold the tape in place

More folds = More recording time. So lets say a 30 second song repeated over and over without stopping instead of a 20 second song

@cypnk Now wondering if it would be possible to mechanically create the effect of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's F#A#∞ on a custom cassette.

(The vinyl loops infinitely on the notes F#A# at the end)

@lordbowlich Now there's a challenge! Did you see the documentary behind the music for the movie Arrival? The late great Jóhann Jóhannsson used these super sized loop tapes to record violins and vocals over and over the same spot to create the music

@cypnk Wild. Didn't know that.

Sometimes, I'm amazed that we haven't run out of possible sounds to create.

@lordbowlich As long as there are waves, there will be surfers

True of water and sound

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