Where Do People Still Use Cassette Tapes?

The answer: in prisons, where CDs are routinely banned because they can be shattered and the shards refined into shivs.

MP3 players are unavailable in most prisons, as are, one imagines, turntables. California-based entrepreneur Bob Paris got the idea five years ago to sell cassettes by mail to the 2.3 million people locked up in federal, state, or local prisons across America. Now he finds himself with a thriving analog business in a digital music industry beset by piracy and plummeting sales. See this Reuters article for more details, including Paris’s best selling albums.

Recent years have seen the resurgence of vinyl record sales (outside of prisons, of course), and even punch cards seem to have been saved from the dustbin of history. The telegraph lasted until 2006 before the medium finally died, but its clipped vernacular lives on in text messaging.

Are there other examples of media that should have gone extinct but found a nice niche in which to survive?

(HT: BoingBoing Gadgets)

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  1. Greg says:

    Well… Andy Rooney is still broadcasting on 60 Minutes every Sunday.

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  2. Gale says:

    Dear Freakonomics:

    There’s many a reason why Wall-e watches Hello Dolly on videotape rather than on DVD — digital data can get lost more easily and more irreperably than analog data (sure the tape might warp, but it can potentially still play — the digital “warp” is just gone…).

    We have taken to tape-recording on a little hand-held cassette machine from the 1970s the literary readings that happen on campus as back-up for the recordings in digital format through a high-tech sysem becaue the high-tech system proved to have loads of ways to leave us with a blank disk (and head-scratching technicans with “gosh, I thought it’d work” semi-apologies), and the distinguished presenter jetting off to points elsewhere…

    The pay phone industry should at this point receive subsidies from Homeland Security to keep those contraptions on street corners. A major weather event, act of terrorism or military aggression could leave all those nifty wireless phones and related devices silenced for hours upon hours. Wouldn’t it be nice for folks at or near the site of calamity to have the means to call home to assure relatives of their being safe/alive? The pay phone just might still be functioning…

    all best,

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  3. Charles says:

    You can still find old computer programs on floppy disks sold on eBay. I have no idea how someone would use them (I guess you might be able to get an external floppy drive online). Presumably people are using them with virtual machines run on new computers, but maybe there really is a market for old Apple ][s and DOS machines…

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  4. Gary says:

    Pagers. Still see them all over the place at hospitals, but are basically useless otherwise.

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  5. Jakomi says:

    Well in the UK, the BPI (aka the major music industry), the government and ISPs have ironed out an agreement based on three strikes of file sharing and you are disconnected.

    I have written an article on my blog which examines whether this bandaid is actually hitting the root cause of a lot of piracy.

    The blog also has a video interview with Pim Betist the founder of http://www.sellaband.com

    Be good to get your thoughts…



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  6. Manu says:

    I could kill a guy with a cassette tape.

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  7. Chip says:

    I wore a “portable” Holter 24 hour heart monitoring device that recorded onto a cassette tape. I had expected the equipment to be the size and weight of an ipod, not a brick.

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  8. Bombchell.Blogspot says:

    I’m not sure about your statement or choice of words “routinely banned” it’s quite vague, and how general are statements? to one prison, one state, or the whole country, and what percentage is this? how often exactly is routinely banned. because from the statement Im assuming you mean tapes are far more common than cd’s.

    I’m just curious, because during a class study cd’s came up while questioning a female death row inmate & her warden. thanks

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