Where It All Began

100_4052.JPG.......... This thrift shop find means so much to me..... as this tape recorder was my first way to express myself.... *sniff* *sniff* I'm getting a little VERKLEMPT.... Talk amongst yourselves.... I'll give you a topic.... Baggy Pants and The Nitwits was an obscure Saturday morning cartoon. Why has this never been released.... discuss..... Look at the way the chrome still shows up on the tape cover, This one is so clean compared to the eventual wreckage that was the end of my first tape recorder..... I recorded records and recorded off of the radio with this. "Hold on, big talking woman, you got me searchin, dah dah dah, dee dee dee and whatever the hell else you want to put in there."

100_4055.JPGA little history may be in order. You see, a portable tape recorder was fairly new when this one came out. They had small reel to reel "rim drive" tape decks that used a system that relied on the balance of the reels one more, one less, to produce sound. When these went out of favor, most of the small tapes recorded on these devices would eventually get played on a direct drive recorder. The tapes sounded like they were oddly sped up or slowed down. There had to be a better way right?

Enter Norelco's new "compact cassette". It was a self contained cartridge meant to be played on a direct drive device and it had improved smaller tape. A series of pulleys and pads contained within the cartridge helped the tape play effortlessly and sounded way better than rim drive portables. You could even record on both sides, doubling the time you had to record. Flipping the tape and recording on the other side was only available in the reel to reel world on hi-fi decks that cost a ton and were far from portable. Pretty shortly thereafter, everybody had jumped on the bandwagon and they were made cheaper and cheaper and the tapes became cheaper and cheaper. The closest thing to the rise of cassette tape would be the rise of video tape. Decks cheaper, recording medium cheaper. Everybody adopts. Recorders and medium improve through the years and gets cheaper still. Videotape never got to the really cheap, portable, "watch anywhere" level because they still required a viewing system. Tape however, be it through cheap orange foamed headphones or through  8" battery powered boom box speakers or through a $10 Unisef  car stereo in your 1979 Chevette, could be enjoyed everywhere.

100_4054.JPGThis was GE's current entry as a really cheap, mass marketed  portable cassette. It's a thing of beauty to me to own again something I beat the hell out of as a kid. I was a fan of all things GE for years after. This one could take a beating because there was little to break on it. Note the door you manually opened to put your tape in. When the door broke on mine, it didn't matter (except for the little bit of extra motor noise heard on the crystal microphone.) You set the tape in manually. You "ejected" the tape by pulling it out. I wish every tape deck was built to be as simple as this was. (IE: Cheap) 

The "IC" logo, was "Integrated Circuit". (IE: Cheap) I didn't know what it meant but I guess a lot of electronics from this era advertised on their units that they were too "IC" or "Solid State". I also remember that the fast forward button on this had no "lock" control. When you wanted to go forward on the tape, you held this down and it went until you let up. (The rewind button stayed down.)  It truly was the bargain basement tape recorder, and likely was barely affordable to my mom when she got it for me.

100_4059.JPGEven the strap you carried the tape recorder with was cheap. A band of plastic/rubber/space age material that fell to earth. It never got brittle, or snapped and stayed flexible. Fiberglass resins maybe?  If it was just plastic, it would have broken by now. If it was rubber, it would have dried and cracked. Technically, it still is my favorite part of this machine. Simple. Efficient. Made in Korea.

100_4058.JPGGeneral Electric Model No. 3-5001A Portable Cassette Recorder.  They even printed the details on the molded plastic. Never could figure out what they vented this for. It never really got hot. I think it was to keep the motor cool. I'd imagine this worked up a sweat. Of course, when I used the little two pronged crystal microphone with the on/off switch to capture my farts, the recorder itself was at a safe distance from my ass. I don't think I used that on-off switch too much as it was an imprecise/analog/electric way to pause a recording leaving a "gonk" on the tape. (Thank you Orsen Wells.) The wires were really cheap on the microphone anyway and I had to rewire it several times until it gave up the ghost.

100_4057.JPGAh yes. This is where I fed the beast. 4 "C" batteries. Now, there were "alkaline" batteries back then, but it was thirty years away from getting dollar store cheapies that worked better than any other battery. We had "general purpose" or "flashlight" batteries that were pretty cheap and lasted okay. The "heavy duty" batteries lasted a bit longer and cost more. I used to use the silver "Eveready"  batteries because they held up the best. RayOVac or Mallory batteries seemed to leak the second they were used up. The silver ones with the red cat leaping through the number "9"  took a few months until they did same.

Funny thing is, when the batteries wore down, the tape motor would still work, allowing you  to still be recording. Essentially, this flaw created the same effect of a rim drive reel to reel deck. Listen back on a fresh set of batteries and I sounded like a chipmunk. However, the music I recorded, with this effect wasn't so funny.  Yes it is.  Slip Sliding Away at 78? Hahahahahahahahahah.

Understand, there was no amount of saving I could do on my allowance back then where I could feed this "beast" regularly. So, when I didn't have batteries, mom bought me a cheap power adapto that failed as much as the microphone's wires. It wasn't until a few years later when I got NiCads that my dependance on these "pieces of silver" waned.

100_4056.JPGAt last we have the "money shot". This is where the business happened. You had to use an external microphone and it was designed with the small electrical "on off" jack next to it. There was a earphone jack for that little flesh colored wire with a crystal speaker with a plastic "Vicks Vapoinhaler" end on it that you stuck into your ear. (Available from GE directly, part # 5-1082 for $1.50.) Strangely, you couldn't get a power adapter through their catalog. There is NiCads (GE's Perma-Cel(R)) and  a car adapter...

Of course, gosh bless Certron Low Noise C-60 tapes (in orange) and C-90 tapes (in blue) for being the cheap media that all the discount stores sold in packs of three for usually about a buck. They still, more or less play fine in the more modern tape recorders that I own with built in microphones and auto eject tapes and are powered with a simple common boom box cord.

My original GE? The microphone gave up the ghost when the wire went bad at the base. The cover was broken off of it and lost to the wind. (I think my mom might have sucked it up in the vac.) Crushing end to this came when the "Play" and "Record" buttons had worn out so they would not stay down. I went to "no money manual" mode which was to unscrew the case,  take out the buttons and work a way to force it to record or play by using magic markers for leverage. It worked for bit until it didn't. I wanted a  new recorder with a radio for my birthday. K-Mart was sold out, so I got the MacDonald Industries piece of dung blogged about previously here:  http://ricochet.boomerthedog.net/blog/junk/2015/07/macdonald-industries-finest.html

I found this GE in great condition in my thrift shop travels and went home with hopes that it would work. It suffers from slow playback likely because the belts inside are worn or the motor needs replacement.  I don't care. An important piece of my child hood is now in my junk collection.