What is a Tape Deck?

Malcolm Tatum

A tape deck is a machine that is capable of utilizing some type of magnetic tape in order to play back recorded audio. While becoming synonymous with the cassette deck during the decade of the 1970’s, the term was once used to collectively refer to cassette players, the reel to reel tape recorder, and eight track tape decks. Today, the tape deck is usually identified solely with a cassette deck.

Stereos with tape decks were a popular way to listen to and record music from the 1970s to the 1990s.
Stereos with tape decks were a popular way to listen to and record music from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Home stereo equipment manufactured from the late 1960’s on usually included the presence of a tape deck in the form of a device that would play and record cassette tapes. As console models gave way to the bookshelf style of stereo during the 1970’s, the units were normally constructed with what was known as tri-mode functionality. This meant that the unit included an AM/FM radio receiver, a turntable, and a cassette tape deck.

A standard audio cassette tape.
A standard audio cassette tape.

One innovation with the tri-mode stereo unit was the inclusion of two cassette decks in the basic design. The dual cassette deck offered both an extended play and a dubbing option. This design would allow users to insert a cassette tape in both decks and set one to automatically start when the other tape came to an end. The dual tape deck design also made it possible insert a blank cassette and record music playing on the radio, turntable or the remaining cassette deck.

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Tape decks declined in popularity with the introduction of CDs.
Tape decks declined in popularity with the introduction of CDs.

The tape deck also began to find its way into vehicles during the latter part of the 1960’s. Including an AM/FM radio along with a cassette deck was first considered an added option but soon became considered part of the standard equipment on new vehicles. Automobiles included a tape deck in auto stereo equipment well into the 1990’s.

The cassette deck remained one of the most common home audio solutions until the advent of the compact disc in the early 1990’s. As the new device began to overtake vinyl records, newer stereo devices often paired a cassette tape deck with the radio and a CD player. As with the older tri-mode design, the newer stereo units often included a dual cassette deck that made it possible to record from any one of the three modes.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the cassette deck has declined in popularity as the compact disc and music data files have become more the standard. By 2007, only a few manufacturers continued to produce cassette tapes, although many stereo units continue to include a cassette tape deck in their design.

Boomboxes have built-in tape decks.
Boomboxes have built-in tape decks.

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Discussion Comments

anon50943

Its a strange unusual device you put in cassette deck. It moves up and down, and sometimes they chew up all over the place and really become so destructible. they are annoying when they snap!

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