Just when I was about to bury my old tape recorder, Aamir Khan resurrected the gadget in the trailer of Raju Hirani's yet to be released movie ‘PK’. Dismayed by its strategic presence, women and Karan Johar wanted to snatch the tape recorder from Aamir’s hands. To find the hidden truth. Why else? After all, there is something called scientific temper - the refusal to accept anything without examining. That’s why.
The last time a tape recorder captured our cinematic imagination was when the recorded voice of Rajesh Khanna stunned a grieving Amitabh - Babu Moshai, Zindagi aur Maut To Uparwale Ke Haath Hai.
Like other tools of popular culture, the tape recorder was a rage in the early eighties. Its demise compels me to play the somewhat broken record of my memories. I am not sure why, but the tape gets stuck around my red Sony Walkman - a birthday gift by my father. It was an era when Japanese gadgets from Aiwa, Sony, and Sanyo were synonymous with quality, whereas goods made in China, well, stayed in China. A Sony Walkman dangling around the neck was in tune with the times. It meant that all was well with the world. For the Apple fed generation, Sony Walkman was the grandfather of the present generation iPod. Given that street dancing became a popular trend in America those days, it was rightly called the Boom Box, a ghetto blaster or a jam box.
It was fascinating to be able to record your own favorites in one cassette that played in a loop for hours together. Of course, you could switch on the radio anytime, but listening to your favorite songs was pure delight. The only irritant was buying good quality cassettes. Those with ample pocket money would go for HMV or Sony cassettes, but the humble ones blessed Gulshan Kumar’s T series. Among other things, the tape recorder imparted an important lesson. Like warning me to never, ever sing in public. I remember recording a few lines in solitude. After listening to my own voice on tape, I realized that if I wanted to keep friends, I had to stay away from singing.
What amplified the fun was the fact that the tape recorder allowed the freedom to carry your own music on a road trip. You could tap your feet to the beat of George Michael’s ‘Faith’ or sing along ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ as the scenery flitted by.
All in all, tape recorders were the coolest thing that happened to music until the arrival of the revolutionary IPods. Revolutionary, because you could store as many as 40,000 songs in your pocket with a storage capacity of 160GB. Like Sony, Apple changed the way we listened to music. Even as I write, fans are mourning the quiet death of iPod Classic, after a brief life span of seven years.
In a world dominated by technology where gadgets are becoming smaller and lighter – the demise of the tape recorder was expected. It is now time to listen to music on the Apple Wrist Watch - a ‘wearable device’ unlike the tape recorder or the iPod. Of course, the watch will tell the time among other things. Only, you can’t use it as an effective undergarment. Or maybe Aamir can. For all I know, or care, Aamir’s wife will be the right person to talk about it.
This post is also on Huffington Post.