Essayist Geoffrey O'Brien has called the personal mixtape "the most widely practiced American art form". But in my lifetime the technology has changed so rapidly, it's been almost hard to keep up with. For example, when I was a freshman in high school it was still cool to give your crush a tape with sweet stickers all over it (ok, maybe it wasn't "cool", in fact it was more like a very timely process of fast-forwarding and rewinding and by the end you threw it away because...you know, you're not ready to bear your soul to that guy in your Chem class who doesn't know your name). By the time I was a senior, CD Burners were becoming common, then a year later, in the fall of 2001, Apple introduced the iPOD. My brother was the first person I knew to have one, and on his original version the wheel actually spun and it felt like you were holding a brick. Like many others I always had a special place for cassette tapes, so when I found out about the Mix Tape USB stick ($20) I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and exhaled. Mix tape technology had come full circle.
A brief timeline of mixtape history:
1964 Philips introduced the compact audio cassette medium for audio storage in the U.S.
Late 1970s cassette tapes become a popular and re-recordable alternative to LPs
1979 The original Walkman was marketed in Japan and boosts popularity of cassette tapes even more.
1982 The first Compact Disc for commercial release rolled off the assembly line. The first title released was ABBA's The Visitors
1992 MiniDisc was introduced to limited success (Brett Garrett also the first and only MD fan I knew).
1995 Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity is published
mid-late 1990s CD-R's and CD Burners become more and more popular (people can record their own CDs)
2000 The first USB flash drive is sold.
2001 Steve Jobs introduces the iPod as a Mac-compatible product with a 5 GB hard drive that could put "1,000 songs in your pocket."
mid-late 2000s Flash drives come in various, sometimes bulky or novelty, shapes and sizes, click here for a list of the top 10 weirdest.
Today: The Mix Tape USB stick which stores up to 1 hour of high quality digital music - the same amount as you get on a C60 cassette tape and you can write and draw awesome things on it too.