Tape The Highway: Obsolescence Embraced

The standard fit “Concert” stereo head unit on my Audi is a technical marvel. Not only does it control a trunk-mounted mechanism that decodes any of six compact discs I choose to load, but it also receives and interprets radio signals. It also houses an all-electronic, logic-controlled cassette tape drive, which for a good few years has been permanently occupied by a Pink Floyd compilation my Dad made for me when I was seven.
Recently, on a quest to make more of my daily commute, I thought I’d rediscover the joy of audio books. I considered CD’s but didn’t really want to displace music from the changer, alternatively, I could have taken the MP3 route via a USB interface, but what’s the point of that when there’s a redundant cassette deck desperate for employment?
So, for £4 eBay served up an analogue release of the original BBC radio series of The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. I eagerly unboxed the tapes and let them play in all their magnetic glory.
Of course, you can imagine what happened next.
What happened next was that I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I laughed heartily and, in some instances, drove erratically while Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent safely escaped the Earth prior to its destruction, spent a while being subjected to terrible poetry while in Vogon captivity and got to meet the designer of Norway. I have read the books, watched the TV series (and massively disappointing film) many times since childhood, and their appeal hasn’t diminished one iota.
And then, while our heroes were launching a richly deserved verbal attack on the idiotic middle men of Golgafrincham, the tape jammed.
Fortunately, it ejected OK and the squiggly brown flatworm was still inside its plastic shell, so I was able to get it home and do the old two-pencils trick to gingerly re-spool it, then a few cycles of rewind later it was as good as new.
But it got me to thinking. As far as I know, dealing with the humble cassette could be just the tip of the iceberg of anachronisms that Hoons persevere with every day. Maybe there’s somebody reading this who actually produces their own 8-track cartridges. Chances are there are folk whose commute starts with a swing of a starting handle and who wouldn’t have it any other way.
So, in what way is your vehicular routine steeped in olde worlde charm?
(All images copyright Chris Haining / Hooniverse 2016, damn I didn’t realise how much my stereo needs a clean)

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33 responses to “Tape The Highway: Obsolescence Embraced”

  1. Borkwagen Avatar

    Clutch in, gear lever out of reverse and into neutral, turn key. A dying art.

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      Don’t get me started on vehicles that only crank with the clutch pedal depressed.

      1. Tiller188 Avatar

        Meh, after having had a car lunge at me while I helped its driver jump it, I don’t mind that one so much. Just as long as it still has a real, keyed ignition switch so I can bumpstart it if need be (after the battery ran down in my brother’s keyless, pushbutton-start-equipped manual trans car, we both scratched our heads and wondered if there was a way to take advantage of this traditional manual-trans advantage in a car without the traditional key switch…)

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          On a few occasions being able to “walk” a nonrunning vehicle on its starter has been of great use, particularly up inclines where pushing it by myself was not possible. I’ve experienced incompetent lunging, too, but I’m willing to run that risk as a tradeoff.

      2. Borkwagen Avatar

        After watching a tire guy nearly wreck my Jag because he started it thinking it was an automatic, I’m glad this exists as an idiot-proofing measure.

  2. mdharrell Avatar

    Regardless of vehicle, if it’s got an engine then my commute starts with manually adjusting the choke.

    1. Rover 1 Avatar
      Rover 1

      A choke.
      Is that like a throttle?

      1. mdharrell Avatar

        Yes, but with more single-mindedness.

  3. Papa Van Twee Avatar
    Papa Van Twee

    I actually have this set somewhere in the garage. I played it like two times. CD came, then the MP3 player… sigh.
    Now if I have a cassette player, it would probably have a Bluetooth receiver stuffed into a cassette.
    The only thing old world charm about my driving is that I own a ’98 and an ’02.

  4. GTXcellent Avatar

    Knowing exactly how many pumps of the accelerator it takes before starting – it’s pretty easy to flood that Carter AFB

  5. Tanshanomi Avatar

    Keep in mind that these are kinds getting a bachelor’s degree in Automotive Restoration…

  6. 0A5599 Avatar

    Vent windows. Also cassette player (aftermarket) with CD-changer-ready controls (but no changer).
    Does red interior count?

  7. Drnoose Avatar

    Kathy at Kate’s Track Shack not only sells all things related to 8 tracks, but she produces carts for bands that want to release music on 8 track today. Cheap Trick hired her to produce the carts for their album “The Latest” a few years ago.

    1. Texlenin Avatar

      OMG—thanks for pointing them out. Never knew they were in Arlington!

      1. JayP Avatar

        I have an 8 track deck that I’ve been wanting to show the kid.

        1. Texlenin Avatar

          I have an Emerson am/fm/cass/8-track portable that I’d like to rehab someday,
          Ever heard of Oak Tree Vintage? Guy repairs/sells lots of old equipment

    2. dead_elvis Avatar

      Must be some sort of uber-hipster thing – why would anyone want to release music on such a terrible, lo-fi, outdated format?

      1. Fred Talmadge Avatar
        Fred Talmadge

        God I hated 8-tracks always jaming up, tapes breaking, what a terrible format.

  8. JayP Avatar

    3 of my cars are solid rear axle, 2 are body on frame.

    1. salguod Avatar

      Oddly, even with 9, 11, 18, 20 and 56 year old cars, I have nothing BOF.

  9. Maymar Avatar

    I mean, my DD doesn’t have bluetooth or heated seats, so I have to live like a savage. My last car didn’t have A/C (and bad ventilation), but that wasn’t charm. Getting a CD jammed in the player though, leaving exactly one choice if I didn’t want the radio, that was kind of charming.
    My other vehicle’s a carburetor, air-cooled bike that’s slightly older than I am. I’d never really played with a choke before it, and everything else had been water-cooled. It’s still a bit of a black art, but it generally fires up with a couple twists of the throttle, and hasn’t stranded me, so it’s charming.
    Also, a friend of mine still has a car with a tape deck. Among his wedding presents several months ago, were the Top Gun and Dirty Dancing soundtracks. He’d definitely appreciate a daily dose of Don’t Panic as well.

  10. Rover 1 Avatar
    Rover 1

    There must be some nostalgia for cassette tapes. MP3s have pretty much the same sound quality.
    i.e. not as good as CDs.
    Or is the answer 42?

    1. ninjabortion Avatar

      Oh brother.

  11. crank_case Avatar

    I’ll just leave this here: https://vimeo.com/471021

  12. Sjalabais Avatar

    Ha, I am currently trying to give away a stack of tapes I found in a box, mix tapes I made as a kid and some random stuff I stole from my mother, still at kid-age. I have had several people ask for them, none of them showed up though.
    What is a “logic controlled” tape player? Is it Audi’s abandoned mind reading concept?
    My olde world charm is using keys. The Honda I drive does have remote controlled doors (the future!), but the remote is so clunky, I don’t want to have it in my pockets. It’s enough with one fabric mountain in that area.

  13. Alff Avatar

    Tape jam? Don’t panic!
    My vehicular old world charm derives from using my left foot to activate brights … and having no unnecessary controls to distract.

  14. CanAm-Chad Avatar

    My LS swapped Golden Eagle Cherokee still rolls with 8-track!

    1. JayP Avatar

      Steely Dan / Winwood Dallas tix on sale tomorrow, noon.

  15. Fred Talmadge Avatar
    Fred Talmadge

    I got my Dad’s cassette collection and listened to them in my Audi. So I while not my normal fare, it was interesting. The Audi is gone and the tapes are in a closet. I can now stream his music from Spotify via bluetooth and no more more cassette adapter for mp3 player.

  16. salguod Avatar

    Two of my 4 daily drivers had cassette players, not that they’ve ever been used by us. I say ‘had” because for Christmas for my daughter I replaced the tape radio in the ’98 Escort with a $60 “Boss” AM/FM/Bluetooth/SD card head unit that plays no traditional media (CDs or tapes).
    I just bought a similar, but slightly nicer, JVC unit ($80) to replace the cassette head unit in the 318ti, but haven’t installed it yet. The display was non-functional and it simply kept cutting out while driving. A tap of the volume knob would bring it back, but it was getting tiresome.

  17. Guest Avatar

    I have carriage style doors on my garage.

    Not those fake ones that open upward, but old school ones, made from plywood and 2x4s.

    Up until I started using it, one door was held shut with a water pump from an old engine!

  18. karonetwentyc Avatar

    Two I’ll add to the list:
    Listening to the power antenna go up just before the radio kicks the speakers in. I actually wonder what the last car sold with a power antenna was, or if there’s still one that you can get with one installed. Most of them either seem to be sharkfins or in-glass units these days.
    Seeing where the oil pressure gauge settles at after being started. I know where it likes to be warm or cold, and like making sure that that’s where it ends up.

  19. tea party jesus Avatar
    tea party jesus

    Oh, my ’96 Lexus LS has both a functioning tape deck and 6-CD changer – in the dash (upper glove box) – and I still make mix CD’s in the summer, which totally perplexes my much younger girlfriend. Then I tell her stories about being in high school in the 90’s and how this technology was THE SHITE back then, and she laughs at me even more.

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