Currys has pressed the eject button on an iconic audio product and one of the last remnants of twentieth century analogue technology, the cassette tape. Existing stocks of cassette tapes will be sold, but will not be replenished. Currys anticipates that cassette decks, which are today installed in less than 5 percent of audio equipment stocked by the retailer, will disappear from the range entirely within 18 months.
The cassette tape dates back to 1963 when the portability and versatility of the format liberated a generation of music fans to make soundtracks to their lives. Combined with the massive success of the Sony Walkman in the 1980s, sales of pre-recorded tapes in the UK peaked in 1989 when 83 million were sold. 95 million blank tapes were sold in 1990 in the UK (that's a whole lot of home-made "best-of" compilation tapes), but this year total UK sales of blank tapes are expected to be below 1 million, with negligible sales of pre-recorded tapes.
"In a sense this decision reflects the beginning of the end for mechanical audio products", states Peter Keenan, managing director of Currys. "Digital technology has fewer moving parts, is considerably smaller and has the huge advantage of using a format that is compatible with many devices. It is also much more portable. A top of the range iPod can hold the same number of albums as 1500 cassettes, which would have required some pretty sizeable pockets."
Currys' sister company Dixons (now the online shop brand) hit the headlines previously when the forward-thinking retailers made announcements that they were to stop the sales of VCR players and 35mm film cameras. We never thought we'd see the day when we were nostalgic for cassette tapes, but there's nothing like a disappearing technology to make you feel old…