Where’s DAT?

So, there I was just sitting there when along came a bunch of words from a man who is a hero of mine. The words were about something I am a little proud of called Euronet from back in 1992.

I’ve written about Euronet before, so let me not digress by waxing lyrical about it right now. Instead I wish to focus on the drift of just some of the words in the bunch of words I received.

Well, within them was mention of DAT. DAT, Digital Audio Tape, was a small tape inside a cassette case, not too different from the old style Digital Video Tapes (or at least the Mini-DV) that were popular right up until very recently.

However, back in the late 1980s, and into the 1990s, DAT was supposed to be the ‘future’ of the storage of very high quality audio. A tape could run for up to 2 hours, and was used for mastering albums and all manner of things like complete radio shows. They fitted nicely in the post and lacked the bulk of the large open reel tapes, the bad quality of analogue audio cassettes and were full of promise.

However, they were problematic. They would suffer from drop out and digital distortion, or even pretend they were recording. A pretence that would only be discovered once trying to play back the fruits of labour and realising that there was absolutely nothing stored.

The mention of DAT got me thinking about so many things that come along and are in popular use for a while yet disappear. DAT disappeared from the domestic market when the MiniDisc arrived, swiftly followed by the recordable CD. It remained in the professional market for a while, but slowly disappeared as audio ended up sitting on hard drives and being transported about in non-physical forms.

The funny thing is that I don’t remember anybody saying, “Hey, from today DAT is dead“. It just faded away. As have, I suppose, so many other things along the way. There obviously comes a time when an mp3 player was so much more practical than a Walkman cassette or CD player. And cheaper. And so we move on.

You can watch the evolution of some things. The CD, as a shape, size, and ‘carrier’ has survived in its physical form. It started off just storing audio. Soon it was games. Soon DVDs. Then it was Blu-Ray. So, it had a ‘continuance’ and just about survives today by re-inventing itself.

Conversely, DAT had nowhere to go when it came to evolution. It was the end of a line. As was the MiniDisc. People normally add Betamax at this point and gloat about the VHS victory. However, Betamax reinvented itself and stayed in the professional video recording market for years.

I digress. What I’m getting at is that you never hear a ‘game over‘ for something, it just becomes game over. I’m guessing this is well illustrated by the mobile phone. A phone that just makes calls and maybe sends basic text was perfectly adequate one time. Today such phones are ‘a joke‘! A mobile phone has to be a camera and an internet browser, when once it was just a phone. Nobody said that on a particular date we were no longer allowed to have ‘just a phone‘, it just evolved that way.

Things, or ‘stuff’, is always evolving. It excites me so much that it does. I have a lot of envy for today’s children growing up with all this ‘stuff’ embedded in their lives. I wonder if they will have as many ‘spurs’ that just come to a dead end, or if these will be restricted to individual ‘apps’ losing their appeal, and everything being released with built in redundancy.

Would today’s audiophiles laugh at DAT?

Categories: Media, Radio, Tech

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