This Sunday 6Music have a celebration of 50 years of the cassette tape. Check it out here
Casette gave us both convenience and the ability to mess about with songs and sounds. I was a fan of Joe Meek and various experimental artists and spent hours recording to tape , splicing and and making a lot of not very impressive noises , but I enjoyed and learned a lot about the fragility and versatility of the medium.
It's small size meant for the first time you could take your own music with you . Previously the transistor radio was the only portable option.
Cassette was Vinyl's portable , personally recordable counterpart. It's main problem is that , like vinyl, it's a fragile decaying medium. Tape heads got dirty , tapes became unravelled , tangled , twisted . You don't get that with your MP3 player or iPod. However Sony's game changer , the Walkman was a godsend . It meant you could listen to music anywhere , and annoy people anywhere and some Walkmans had radios as well , best of both worlds.
It was briefly superceded by mini disc , another Sony innovation I think , which was eventually overtaken by hard disk players and finally solid state. If 4G becomes ubiquitous we may see the solid state players replaced by stream players , but for that you need a continuous reliable signal, and that is unlikely to happen because there are always places where you are unable to get a signal.
RPM in Newcastle has a stock of vintage music centres , along with cassettes and vinyl to play on them , which is excellent if you have the room and inclination for that.
It's unlikely that I will ever own another cassette player but cassettes certainly provided me with lots of fun , inspiration and convenience in their heyday and ironically the stadard tape length of 90 minutes was almost the same time capacity as a CD.