I was checking up to see what Varahagiri Venkata Giri actually looked like (on account of this) and in this endeavour I had hopped to those fine folks at Wikipedia, and ran into this piece
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Cassette as their featured piece on the home page, and it opened up a whole lot of memories (since I am a sentimental fool).
I think most people of my age group (kids in the 80s, teens in the 90s) would have grown up listening to music on cassettes (unless their folks were either cool enough to have a record player, or progressive enough to have a CD-player). From the early days on the folkses Sharp GF8989 boombox, music to me equalled tapes. The first tape I ever owned was Michael Jackson's 'Dangerous' bought in 1992. (yes yes, I confess I was a Michael Jackson fan, and still am). Through the years of Madonna, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Learns to Rock and so on the tape was the highly frustrating medium on which all music was served. Tapes broke, tapes tangled, tapes got fungus on them, and most irritatingly tapes disappeared, but like Doordarshan and Indian Airlines in the 80s, we really had no choice.
To be fair to them they did a fairly decent job of playing the music, and at that age, in those times (and on those systems), the 'fidelity' of the recording really didn't make much of a difference to me. Plus they were infinitely involving to the geek in me. Hours were spent opening up fungus infected cassettes, swabbing fungus off the reel with earbuds and ethyl alcohol, carefully replacing the reels and rollers on the base of the shell, guiding the flimsy tape across the transport notches and grooves, and resealing the shell with a Phillips screwdriver, and playing it over a few types to 'really clean it up.'
Further more hours were spent transplanting the tape reels from a broken shell to an intact one (thereby making an MS Subbalakshmi tape play Michael Jackson), involving all the delicacy of the previous operation, plus the added frustration of tangling tape, and what to do with MS Subbalakshmi's innards after the transplant.
Grand felonies committed included recording malayalam film songs from Radio over parents' ancient recordings of Pritish Nandy's poetry (which they never listened to anyways, but for which I got the shelling of a lifetime). Crimes on humanity included recording my own singing and playing of percussion instruments such as the Bisleri bottle and the cricket bat. Silly fun included 'high speed dubbing' [where tape to tape recording happens in a dual deck system where the source and destination tapes move at approximately twice the regular speed] which made all music sound like "the chipmunks," which I liked, and which spawned the idea in my young entrepreneur's mind to make a collection of "High Speed Dubbing Hits", songs that sounded good at double speed. However, as the capital and infrastructure was lacking this concept never took off.
Then of course, the regular excitement of head cleaning, applying earbud soaked in nail-polish remover to magnetic head, capstan, pinch-roller etc., etc,. to make the sound sparkle.
My folks got a CD-player in 1995, but CDs were still too expensive to completely replace tapes, and so throughout school and most of college (before MP3s came and knocked everything for a six) tapes were all I had and most of my tapes are still lying aroudn in shoeboxes at home (pssst....shoeboxes were DESIGNED to store tapes....no kidding....try it out). Tapes went up from costing 40 bucks for Michael Jackson's dangerous to 50 bucks for Europe's Greatest Hits, to 75 bucks for Michael Learns to Rock, to 100 bucks for Blood on the Dance Floor to 125 bucks for Best of Mr. Big to 150 bucks for Best of Ocean Colour Scene....and that was the last tape I bought.