Lessons from an adaptor

David (drbh) Holtz
5 min readJan 12, 2020

I absolutely love the adaptor above. Whilst simple, plastic and cheap. This adaptor represents much more. No not just the “good ‘ol times” listening to my favorite songs; but an important lesson on technology, people and life in general.

First, if you don’t know what this item does let me explain.

It is a cassette tape to headphone jack adaptor, with an iPhone lighting adaptor attached. Essentially connecting a cassette player to a lighting input 🚗 🔌 📲

The options for music in my parents older car are between the radio and the cassette player. Quickly, mp3s, iPods, smart phones and music streaming services were introduced to the world, and we needed better ways to get our music to vibrate through the car speakers.

This adaptor was the answers ✅ and I began to wonder how and why the cheapest and well functioning solutions was a series of cables that connect technology from the late 1920s to smartphones of 2019.


Cassette tapes

Magnetic tapes or cassette tape are old and astoundingly complex for their time. The concept of magnetic data storage was proved in 1928 by a German-Austrian scientist.

In 1927, after experimenting with various materials, Pfleumer used very thin paper which he coated with iron oxide powder using lacquer as glue. Pfleumer was granted in 1928 a patent in Germany for the application of magnetic powders to strip of paper or film. — full history

All magnetic tapes work by arranging some magnetic material, in Pfleumers case this was iron oxide into specific positions. Later, when the tape is read the positions of the material is used to recreated the information encoded on the tape. This process is done by sliding the tape over a reader at a constant speed. This is where the spinning disk in the cassette tape comes from.

Magnetic tapes are an effective, cheap and easy way to store data. The vinyl record was first used in 1948 by Columbia records and stuck as the primary format for sharing music for over a decade. However by the later end of the 60s the audio industry has practically completely moved from vinyl to magnetic tape for distribution since it was cheaper, smaller and less effected by movement. This transition can…

David (drbh) Holtz

Prompt/Software Engineer | 🦺 always building 🪛