At the CES of 1970, Piracy Was a Selling Point

Behold, a tape that would allow "your kid to pirate music off the air and sell it to his friends."
More
Vintage recordable audiocassettes (eBay/squarenuts711)

In 1970, New York City played host to the fourth Consumer Electronics Show. The gathering featured some 200 manufacturers displaying an array of gadgets that is quaint by today's standards, but must have been impressive at the time. As The New York Times described it, the conference's audio section alone offered products ranging from "phonographic needles to the tiniest radios and TV sets, to giant high fidelity, stereophonic sound systems." 

There was another thing that was big that year, too: audio cassettes. In 1970, the Apollo astronauts had just famously used that cutting-edge technology en route to the moon, and the futuristic tapes, for the non moon-bound, represented an exciting new way to experience music. Cassettes were useful not just for listening to sounds, though; they were also useful for recording them—and manufacturers, apparently, were eager to sell that capability to the public. 

Take the DynaSound division of the Data Packaging Corporation, one of CES's 1970 exhibitors. The company's spokesman extolled the virtues of its blank cassette tape like so: The tape's quality, he said, is "good enough for your kid to pirate music off the air and sell it to his friends." 

Wow—that is good!

The Times, delightfully, referred to this practice as "juvenile piracy." You could also refer to it as "pretty prescient." 

Jump to comments
Presented by

Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Remote Warehouse Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In