This was one hell of a piece of technology to own back in the 1970s! There was so much more that you could do with one of these things than just record songs off the radio.

But in the days before home video (Betamax and VHS) there was one especially exciting thing they could be used for.


Re-living the Magic

Loved the episode of SPACE 1999 that you just saw? Would you EVER see it again? There was no guarantee. But if you had one of these magical machines, you could at least capture the audio and replay it over and over! Some people have told me that they smuggled them into cinemas when they saw Star Wars and wore out the tapes afterwards.

The Compact Cassette logo

Ever notice how the cheapo cassettes that spilled into your machine usually had these ‘Compact Cassette‘ logos? Some of us remember patiently freeing the tape from the capstan and pinch-rollers and winding them back in with a pencil. Or even using tiny pieces of sellotape to reassemble snapped tape!


No Cables!

Words almost can’t capture the allure of a handy-sized tape recorder that ran on batteries! No mucking about with extension cables. The quality of the mono recordings via a built-in Dynamic Microphone might have been poor, and the sounds of your bored siblings chatting in the background, or dishes clattering in the sink might have been irritating, but playing back your Compact Cassette recordings – especially in the dark – was thrilling stuff indeed. It was even a little scary when you heard the spooky, Ligeti-esque choral ‘Aaaahhh’ voices as Banner changed into the HULK!


Bill Bixby turning into the Hulk!

The *sniff* late Bill Bixby Hulks-out in 1978. The music during these moments scared the hell out of my poor little 4 year old sister!
See and hear it


It was a taste of how powerfully something akin to radio drama could play on the imagination – coupled with having already SEEN it. Even Battle of the Planets was good in audio only.

My favourite recording ever was about 10 or 15 seconds of STAR WARS, recorded from the British Academy Awards – I think. I played that one to death. Those sounds – those voices…

“We’ve lost the lateral controls!”

“Don’t worry – she’ll hold together.”

“I’ll take him myself!”

There were many more things you could do with tape recorders but I’ll leave those for other strips…

** Stay Groovy, all you 1970s kids! **

– John White

↓ Transcript

It was a 1970s Christmas morning. At about 2am, young Jack found himself sitting in the living room floor by the silver Christmas tree, eyes wide with excitement. Santa had brought him a cassette tape recorder!

He'd often pestered his friends, who had them, to have fun recording themselves; but they were already bored with that novelty. His family's own one had been broken for some time and no one, it seemed, could repair it. He'd so often dreamt of this moment. The creative possibilities!

"Crikey!" he yelped, "The things I'll be able to do with this! Cor... thanks Father Christmas!"

Jack's dad, rubbing his tired eyes, standing behind asked, "What will you record? Music and things?"

But Jack had very little interest in music, except for ABBA and his Star Wars soundtrack album, which he'd got for his birthday. "Er, things." he coyly replied.

Later, Jack sat beside the family's Bush TV. His arms ached as he held his tape recorder's tiny, built-in condensor microphone up to the set's tinny speaker. "Shhh... everyone?" he quietly pleaded. There was a lot of background noise. Not everyone in the family were as excited as he was by these American shows. Every few minutes or so, he swapped the taped recorder to the other hand, holding the recorder in one hand, and his aching arm in the other hand. "Can't - feel - my arm! Must - endure - the pain..." he thought. He could barely even enjoy the show that he'd waited all week to see.

In bed, at half past eight, he savoured his prize. The effort was worth it. "Crikey" he thought, smiling, as he listened to the TV show in the darkness, his imagination racing...

"Mister McGee - please don't make me angry? You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

Impossible as it seemed, The Incredible Hulk was even better this way.