The Compact Cassette or Musicassette (MC), also commonly called the tape cassette, cassette tape, audio cassette, or simply tape or cassette, is an analog magnetic tape recording format for audio recording and playback. Invented by Lou Ottens and his team at the Dutch company Philips in 1963, Compact Cassettes come in two forms, either already containing content as a prerecorded cassette (Musicassette), or as a fully recordable "blank" cassette. Both forms have two sides and are reversible by the user. Although other tape cassette formats have also existed - for example the Microcassette - the generic term cassette tape is normally always used to refer to the Compact Cassette because of its ubiquity.
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|Media type||Magnetic tape cassette|
|Encoding||Analog signal, in four tracks|
|Capacity||Most commonly 30, 45 and 60 minutes per side (C60, C90, and C120)|
|Read mechanism||Tape head|
|Write mechanism||Tape head|
|Usage||Audio and data storage (replaced by CD)|
|Extended from||Reel-to-reel audio tape recording|
|Extended to||Digital Compact Cassette|
Its uses have ranged from portable audio to home recording to data storage for early microcomputers; the Compact Cassette technology was originally designed for dictation machines, but improvements in fidelity led to it supplanting the stereo 8-track cartridge and reel-to-reel tape recording in most non-professional audio applications by the mid-1970s. It became an extremely popular format for prerecorded music, first alongside the LP record and later the digital compact disc (CD); the latter format eventually caused prerecorded cassettes to fade into obscurity by the mid-1990s in many countries, but it continued to be popular well into the 2000s in some other countries as well as for home recording purposes. Compact Cassette tapes remain in production as of 2022 and survives as a niche format, continuing to receive some new music releases.
Compact Cassettes contain two miniature spools, between which the magnetically coated, polyester-type plastic film (magnetic tape) is passed and wound. These spools and their attendant parts are held inside a protective plastic shell which is 4 by 2.5 by 0.5 inches (10 cm × 6.3 cm × 1.3 cm) at its largest dimensions. The tape itself is commonly referred to as "eighth-inch" tape, supposedly 1⁄8 inch (0.125 in; 3.17 mm) wide, but it is slightly larger: 0.15 inches (3.81 mm). Two stereo pairs of tracks (four total) or two monaural audio tracks are available on the tape; one stereo pair or one monophonic track is played or recorded when the tape is moving in one direction and the second (pair) when moving in the other direction. This reversal is achieved either by flipping the cassette, or by the reversal of tape movement ("auto-reverse") when the mechanism detects that the tape has come to an end.