The nerds over at the Oxford English Dictionary have been making a lot of changes to their product lately, adding a bunch of once-jargon such as "retweet" and "mankini" (which my spell check still don’t recognize) while cutting actual words from the archive. The prime example of which being "cassette player," cited for removal as an obsolete technology. Which is wrong. Just plain wrong. And I won’t be the only one to tell you so.
In the post-digital age, it’s hard to find anything arty about .mp3s. Made once, they can be sold over and over again without any cost to the distributor and without any unique benefit for the consumer. Audiophiles are aware of this -- just look at the market reports at the surge of vinyl sales in the last couple years, even though music sales in general are falling. All evidence points to music consumers craving something interesting, beautiful, and tangible. Further, can we just agree that .mp3s sound like cold steel death, while records and cassettes sound warm, inviting, and real?
Labels are aware of this, as well. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the Woodist Records Paypal is "firstname.lastname@example.org." Crash Symbols put out its first dozen or so releases on cassette. Sixteen Tambourines Records releases cassettes all the time, including a forthcoming piece from New York’s Total Slacker. LA’s Not Not Fun wouldn’t be the same without its cassette output. Chocolate Bobka just began a great cassette label, The Curitorial Club. And here, Rhizome points you to 101 others that are still in operation.
Let’s just assume this is obliviousness on the part of the wordsmiths over at the OED.
Why? The cassette tape is an operable, relevant piece of musical artifice, capable of immediate, tangible editing and a warm sound not reproducible in any digital setting. The removal of the phrase is an affront to creators' and consumers' sensibilities and should be quickly remedied, as the technology is far from "obsolete," as the OED would have us believe. Technologies don’t become obsolete; markets and the constant amelioration of consumer culture push out the "old" in that Keeping Up With The Joneses mentality. Maybe the OED editors should have asked someone before making this erasure.
Do something to make a change: sign my petition to get ‘cassette player’ back in the OED!