'Dad tech' in the world of antiques make ideal Father's Day gifts

Our antiques expert looks at the world of old technology...

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 3:45 pm

It’s Father’s Day this weekend, just before another milestone in hopefully returning to ‘normality’. We’re all now aware how transient ‘normal’ is, especially in areas involving technology. Youngsters today are incredulous that TVs used to be the size of a small car, and telephones wired to the wall!

So this week, we’re looking at the music technology which bridged the gap between gramophones and record players (both collecting areas in their own right), and modern digital devices.

Fittingly, it’s become known as ‘Dad tech’- reflecting our nostalgia for the music formats from our formative years.

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This‘portable’ hifi is in the centre priced at 20 pounds
This‘portable’ hifi is in the centre priced at 20 pounds

This includes reel to reel tape, the 8-track cartridge, minidisc, digital audio tape (DAT), laser discs and the various machinery needed to play them. Other than museums, professionals and real obsessives, not many people collect this tech for its own ends, although as we shall see, one area is seeing a happy reversal.

Real- or reel- aficionados rate the depth, quality and tone of reel to reel far higher than newly resurgent vinyl, meaning vintage players are highly sought after. Makes like Studer, Stellavox, Tascam and Denon can be relatively easily reconditioned, and in working order could give a return of several hundred pounds.

Before CDs, the king of audio media was the compact cassette, invented by Dutch sound engineer Lou Ottens, who only died in March this year, in 1963 to make tape more stable and portable. Paving the way to playlists and the beloved mixtape, an estimated over 100 billion have been sold to date.

The rise of vinyl has been well documented, but over the last couple of years, cassette tapes have enjoyed their own renaissance. According to British Phonographic Industry figures, over 150,000 pre-recorded cassettes were sold in the UK last year, the highest figure since 2003, and an increase of 94% on 2019. Global pop icons including Lady Gaga have started rushing out their new releases on cassette, to a ready market.

So, having chucked out your bulky hi-fi, you might now be looking to buy it back! Both this slimline CD player and the nostalgically bulky, ‘portable’ radio cassette player are in the centre priced just £20 each. In an age where you can fit thousands of songs onto a phone, there’s something appealing about the physicality of tape. Happy Father’s Day, and three analogue cheers for ‘Dad tech’!