Evolution of Communication Technology Essay Example

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Since the first instance of verbal and written communication, human beings have been experiencing different changes in technology to enhance communication. The evolution in communication is evident with the fact that of existence of several communication technologies that used to be in practice some decades ago (Eric, et al., 2002). However, with increased evolution of technology, such communication technologies faced eradication from wide application due to their obsolete nature. These resulted in such technologies being ‘dead’. Another important point to note is that such evolution leading to obsolete status of each communication technology started back in the primitive stages of using symbols for communication and the evolution that resulted in one communications powerhouse (Andre, 2005). Looking around, one will most likely appreciate the fact that communicant and transfer of data has never been this fast while at the same time storage of data has never been such sophisticated as well.

Evolution of the Compact Cassette

The compact cassette is a communication device that is made of a plastic case containing a spool of approximately 3.82mm of magnetic tape mounted between two reels. The design of the tape is in such a manner to run at a rate of 4.76 cm per second. The exposure of certain portion of the tape head in the tape player or deck offers room for interpretation of an analog signal from the tape’s magnetic surface. The evolution of compact cassette started with the dawn of magnetic recording between 1878 and 1930. In 1878 specifically, Oberlin Smith (Mechanical Engineer) came up with theory of magnetic recording upon visiting Edison’s lab (Werner, et al., 2003). The Electric World recorded Oberlin’s findings as “Possible Forms of Phonograph” in 1888. As an advancement of Oberlin’s theory, Valdemar Poulsen , a mechanic engineer attached to Copenhagen Telegraph Company in 1894, discovered the magnetic recording principle and later patented the Telegraphone (Andre, 2005), which in essence is the first ever successful magnetic recording device.

Veldemar’s patent expired in 1918 and this gave Germans the opportunity to further improve magnetic recording theory. This saw a series of magnetic machines that take into account the use of wire and steel tapes brought into the market between 1920 and 1945. In 1928 for instance, Fritz Pfleumer earns patent rights for applying some magnetic powder on film or paper strips. The German National Court later argued that Pfleumer’s patent was covered in the original patent awarded to Poulsen. Another landmark event in the evolution process came with the development of Magnetophone machine by Allgemeine Electrizitasgesellschaft (AEG) in Berlin exhibition held on the summer of 1935 (Pekka & Ilpo, 2004). During the exhibition, AEG successfully presented Magnetophone K1 and Magnetophoneband Type C (Lee, 2007). With such presentation, the machine created an instant sensation in the technology field. In the same year, BASF accepted AEG’s request to develop the first Magenetophon tape, which consisted of a foil of cellulose acetate being its carrier material, and coated with lacquer made out of iron oxide acting as its magnetic pigment. The evolution continued in 1936 when BASF replaced carbonyl iron with Magnetite Fe304 (a black cubical iron oxide). In the same year, the first public recording that used AEG Magnetophone was recorded.

By 1939, BASF made efforts to advance the quality of the tape than its original version of 1936. In 1938 for instance, BASF introduced gamma ferric oxide tape that came with red iron oxide particles. This version of the tape was smaller when compared with the original Fe304 version (Giuseppe, 2005). Another important feature to note is that the original Fe304 resisted erasing of data with permanent magnetic erase heads. Additionally, the evolution saw the achievement of a signal-to-noise ratio that was significantly low at 40 dB and a frequency ranging from 50 Hz to 5 kHz.

In 1940, the evolution results in the realization of AC bias by Reichs Rundfunkgesellschaft (RRG) engineer, Walter Weber. The discovery occurred through a combination of systematic research a mere luck. By the time of Ac Bias discovery, AEG Magnetophone had 60 dB dynamic range and had managed a frequency response range between 50 Hz to 10 kHz. This later led to BASF producing Tape LG in 1943 on a plastic base film. Consequently, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing (later rebranded to 3M Corp.) developed and introduced Scotch No. 100. This was a black oxide paper tape.

In 1947, Jack Mullin and Richard Ranger produced tapes that Bing Crosby agreed to audition for its Crosby Philco radio show. This radio show was a great proponent of tape recording (Hans-Joachim, 2007). The owner of the radio show did not like the idea of broadcasting twice per day as it had two programs, one for the East Coast of the United States and another program to serve the West Coast region. To perform once, Crosby saw it vital to record the shows and edit it to remove some bloopers and add a few advertisements. In the same year, Ampex Corporation produced its first tape recorder named the Model 200 with the help of Armour Research Foundation and the German expertise and designs (Donald, 2011). All these developments and evolutions of magnetic recording were useful in creating stage for the introduction of compact cassette.

Cartridges and Cassettes (1958-65)

Companies got spurred up by with RCA’s introduction of cartridges. This sparked companies worldwide to develop tape cartridges, cassettes, and magazine tapes with different names and standards. This was a major development since the tapes did not require manual thread of reel-to-reel system but just needed an individual to insert the encased tape into a tape player and press a button to have it operating (David, 2004). This implies that it did not require an individual to have special skills to operate the tape. Another major advantage that added up to the advantages of cartridges is the fact that they were reversible and both sides could play. However, since the production cost of cartridges was high, RCA Records and other producers charged high prices that saw the devices get out of market by 1964.

In 1959, Collins Radio produced its Fidelipac (NAB cartridge) during the 1959 NAB convention. The purpose of the cartridge was to help radio broadcasters in playing commercial, bumpers, and making announcements. It dominated the market until late 1990s when the superior compact cassette found its introduction into the scene. In 1963, Compact Cassette Philips introduced a prototype at the Berlin Radio Show (David, 2004). This introduction was an improvement of Fidelipac in the sense that it utilized small battery-powered versatile players that were highly portable. This development by Philips became a revelation to other companies as Telefunken and Blaupunkt brought into scene DC-International Cassette in 1965 during the Berlin Exhibition Gruding with its first recorder being Gruding C 100 L (Randy, 2003).

The King emerge: Compact Cassette

The stiff licensing fees demanded by creators forced Philips and Gruding to have a joint venture in producing cassettes. This saw the production of compact cassettes that were so efficient than their predecessors were. At the time of introduction, only three cassettes were available in the markets across the world; 3M’s low-noise cartridge tape, BASF’s PES-18, and the most successful KODAK’s triple play tape. However, BASF won the honor to make a variety of tapes for the compact cassettes at the time (David, 2004). However, competition between Gruding and Philips over shares saw the two companies separate. It is also important to note that the earliest production of compact cassettes mainly focused on voice recording and dictation. Evolution of technology saw the need for more advances in the cassettes to reduce noise production, improve their ability to play stereo tapes, and high-quality sound assurance. Eventually, such evolution trends saw the production of high-end super-metal cassettes in 1990.

However, cassettes experienced their downfall in 1992 soon after Philips produced its Digital Compact Cassette. The introduction of microcassette, which was small in size and more enhanced features, also saw Compact Cassettes lose market demand. However, these two successors also went obsolete with the introduction of CD-R discs and flash memory-based digital audio players (Donald, 2011).


Over the years, evolution of tape itself that saw its improvement and realization of better shells earned compact cassettes the high fidelity source it enjoyed. This paper demonstrates that there have been various advances made in various areas of compact cassette development ranging from magnetic particles to materials used in binding and the shell for mounting the cassette itself. Most manufactures reduced the particle size by almost a factor of 10 from the original size while at the same time doubling the magnetic energy of each particle. It is unfortunate to note that the introduction of a CD and its takeover saw the decline of Compact Cassette. Manufacturers found it cheaper to produce a high quality and good sounding CD and a CD player than producing a cassette deck and a compact cassette.

Reference List

Andre, M. (2005). America on Record: A History of Recorded Sound. New York: Cambridge

David, L. (2004). Sound Recording: The Life Story of a Technology. Baltimore: John Hopkins

Donald, A. (2011). The Oxford Handbook of Oral History. New York: Oxford University Press

Eric, D., Daniel, C., Dennis, M., & Mark, H. (2002). Magnetic Recording: The First 100 Years.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Giuseppe, R. (2005). Ambient Intelligence: The Evolution of Technology, Communication And

Cognition. Netherlands: IOS Press.

Hans-Joachim, B. (2007). Music and technology in the twentieth century. JHU Press, p.161.

Lee, S. (2007). Anthropological Resources: A Guide to Archival, Library, and Museum

Collections. London: Routledge.

Pekka, G., & Ilpo, S. (2004). International History of the Recording Industry. Continuum


Randy, A. (2003). Tascam: 30 Years of Recording Evolution. London: Hal Leonard Corporation.

Werner, A., et al. (2003). German Industry and Global Enterprise: BASF: The History of a

Company. Cambridge University Press. p. 585