Longest. Cassette. Ever. (And It’s Not What You Think.)

Back when I was still making mixtapes, I favored the 90 minute versions with 45 minutes per side. I could have gone for the 120s, but I found that the tape sometimes stretched after a while which ruined the audio. Fast-forwarding and rewinding through 60 minutes of tape was often a drag. And besides, I could get 15 or songs per side. That was plenty.

It was until the iPod came along. The first generation iPod had a massive (hah!) hard disc drive that Steve Jobs famously described as “allowing you to keep a thousand songs in your pocket.” By the time we got to the iPod Classic, that number was up to 40,000 songs.

But that ain’t nothing. Sony has just unveiled a new recording tape that can hold 148 GB per square inch. Doing the math, that’s 185 terabytes. This is a vast improvement on the last iteration of this technology which could hold a mere 29.5 GB per square inch.

Obviously, Sony has no plans whatsoever of using this technology to resurrect mixtape culture and is instead meant for long-term storage of vast amounts of data on the enterprise level. But let’s have some fun just the same.  Extreme Tech crunched some numbers for everyone. How much media could 185 terabytes hold?

– It’s three Blu-rays’ worth of data per square inch. Or, a total of 3,700 Blu-rays on a single tape. That’s a stack of boxes that would be nearly 15 feet high.

– A single tape holds five more TB than this hard drive storage array, which has to be custom-made and runs for $9,305.

– A total of 64,750,000 songs. If the average song is, say, three minutes, that’s enough music to last you 134,896 days.

– The entirety of the Library of Congress represents about 10 total TB. One tape can hold 18.5 versions of the Library of Congress.

As someone said to me “Can you imagine having to rewind one of those cassettes with a pencil?” (If you don’t know what the means, you’ve never been into cassette culture). More links to the story at Consequence of Sound.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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