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Pre-recorded Cassettes’ Last Stand

Pre-recorded Cassettes’ Last Stand


in a previous video I explained how by using Dolby s along with metal tapes it was possible to make a recording at home onto a cassette that could sound as good as all depending on who you ask even better than a compact disc but unfortunately neither of these techniques were suitable for the pre-recorded cassettes sold in the stores in the early 90s when pre-recorded cassettes sales were at their height very few people owned cassette decks with Dolby s decoding and the metal tape costs were just too expensive to use for cassette sold to such a price-conscious market so in this video I’m going to talk about a few techniques that manufacturers developed to significantly improve the second quality of pre-recorded cassettes that worked irrespective of the capabilities of the machine are being played back in and without adding anything to the end costs the consumer unfortunately though these improvements arrived at the same time that many people were abandoning the cassette format so if like me you stopped buying cassettes in the early nineties you might never have experienced these improvements and that’s why I’m going to talk about them here today the first one of these improvements was a thing known as did your log now didja log was a name that Warner Music or WEA coined for a technology that’s more commonly referred to as a digital bin now to explain what digital bin is we’ll first have to take a look at the way cassette duplication had worked up until its introduction so if we start this description at the point where the recording studio has produced the master tape of an album a number of copies are run off that master tape and one of those copies will find its way to a cassette duplication facility now they would get that tape and they would run copies off it as well and put one of those copies into a machine called a loop bin duplicator and it will be held in there as a giant loop of tape and run around at great speed it would be playing it and dubbing it to multiple attached slave recorders so it would produce a number of copies at the same time and once the recording process has completed on one of these slave machines the tape reload it will contain a number of copies of the cassette album all join together on one big reel so that reel is then taken they’re loaded onto a tape winding machine where the tape is pulled off the reel putting two cassette shells and spliced at the appropriate points if you want to see one of these machines in action I’ve got a link in the video description but hopefully you can see from my explanation that the duplication of the tape could involve you getting a cassette there was five generations of copies away from the master tape and also bear in mind that the tape inside the bin loop machine could only produce a certain number of copies before it started to degrade in quality duplication houses would regularly swap that tape loop out but you might be unlucky buying a cassette in a store and finding you’ve got one right from the end of a run before they swap the tape over now whilst this process wasn’t ideal very few things are it was just the way that pre-recorded cassettes had been made for decades had nobody really thought anything more of it until the sales of albums on cassettes started to fall 1990 had been a record year for cassette sales but 91 saw them falling back a bit now presumably this wouldn’t have been of a concern to the recording industry if those cassette sales had been picked up by people swapping over to the more lucrative compact disc format but it didn’t seem that that was the case the reduction in cassette sales had actually slowed the overall growth in music sales for the whole market the WEA group of record labels thought they might have a way to slow down this trend or perhaps even reverse it make people stop abandoning the cassette former and it was through the use of improved duplication technologies many of the recording studios of the early nineties we’re now mastering to a digital file so why not send that digital file off to the cassette duplication facilities they could then load that into their machines and run the cassette copies from that effectively each of these cassettes would be a first generation copy of the master recording now whilst WEA were making all the noise about this they weren’t the inventors of this technology there been other versions of it first this one from a blacks in the UK was described as storing the music on an enormous solid-state six gigabit store that can hold nearly a hundred minutes of stereo music if you’re interested six gigabits is 750 Meg’s now might sound quaint nowadays but consider that the digital BIM machines could record this audio data onto cassette tape at a hundred times normal speed and that required some serious cutting edge digital to unlock a version for the day now I don’t know about you but whenever I hear the term high-speed dubbing my heart still sinks you see I can recall the heyday of twin cassette decks in the 1980s and they often have this feature on but whenever you used it you found that the copies it made was significantly worse than if you’d had done them at normal speed ask anyone who was a child in the 80s who tried copying their friends spectrum games across using high-speed dubbing how successful that was it was rarely met with anything other than a loading error and more recently albums are being sold mentioned that they’ve got half speed mastering as a way to improve the sound quality so surely dubbing a tape and up to a hundred and sixty times normal speed would be a bad thing well no when it comes to using professional duplication equipment it actually improves the recording and that’s because you’re able to effectively eliminate any potential for the tape to pick up any Wow and flutter where will flutter our variances in the tape speed but you can eliminate this if you record a whole tape in just a few seconds it literally has no chance to experience any variances in speed in addition some reports I’ve read about the digital mastering system explained that it enabled it tape to be driven harder you could put a stronger louder single on there effectively driving it more into the red but without Distortion and I’ll explain more in a moment why this would be a good thing I can see that some of you might now be losing interest so let me try and spice this dull nonsense up here’s something you might find interesting if you’ve ever listened to a cassette it’s more than likely you’ll have heard a fluttering noise either at the end or the beginning of the tape that sounds like this now you’ve probably never given that sound a second thought but then consider that the tape duplication machines that made that sound we’re running at a hundred or more times normal speed so let’s speed this up a hundred times and see what it should sound like and that was it in case you missed it here it is again and that beep is inserted onto the large tape reel at the end of each recording of the album then when that tapes loaded into the cassette winding machine it knows where to splice it now getting back on topic you’d expect one of these digital bin systems would have to employ some sort of digital to analog converter because you need to convert the digital audio back to analog before you can put it onto the cassette tape and indeed this was how many of these systems work but apparently it was also possible to use an alternative method where you sent the digital PCM pulses directly through to an analogue record head which internally converted that into the signal which was recorded onto the cassette tape now this goes beyond my level of understanding so I’ve linked to a video in the video description which demonstrates this technique the only reason I mention this is because I was wondering if this last step in the chain is the thing that makes digital log different from the other digital bins that were already on the market so I went trying to find more information about did you log and I didn’t actually get very far there was supposed to be a series of advertisements run in the July 2002 copies of a number of music magazines however after looking through my copies of these I drew a blank I did find them manage to find it in the August 2002 issue of Spin Magazine and it’s a very we cover very easy to miss I think I put the text of the advert on the screen now so you can see what it was saying and it really offers very little technical information I’m still none the wiser as to whether digital log is any different to anyone elses digital bin system their only benefit from the warders WEA version is that they publicized it through the use of information on advertisements for new albums coming out as well as by putting identifying stickers on the cassette boxes themselves you’ll notice that this advertisement refers to Premium cobalt tape and that brings us neatly onto our next 1990s tape improvement new tape formulations the two tape formulations that were commonly used at the time were ferric and Chrome as you can see from the informational screen ferric could capture base notes that chrome couldn’t wear as chrome was better at capturing the higher frequencies the new cobalt formulation was able to capture the same frequencies as ferry but could be driven for decibels harder effectively it could capture more volume without Distortion in a previous video I demonstrated that tape has background hiss the more you turn up your volume the more the histor so if you’re able to record louder music on a cassette tape you don’t need to turn the volume up as high to hear it and then the hiss becomes less noticeable the funny thing is that cobalt tape was nothing new the improvers described on-screen here were reported in a 1971 article from popular science anyway over 20 years later in 1992 they finally decided that cobalt tape was a good idea and with the introduction of digital bins and their ability to impart better signals onto the tape cobalt became more relevant Sony said that by the end of 1993 all their new releases on cassette would be on cobalt tape and when you look at the listed benefits better frequency response wider dynamic range lower noise elimination of plums with bass response high frequency harshness and intermodulation distortion it seems like a no-brainer Sony went on to say that once the benefits of cobalt tape we can buy with the improvements brought by high-speed digital mastering the consumer would see a dramatic difference in the quality of the music being presented but never underestimate the shortsightedness of the other recording labels at that time furry tape was being used for up to 90% of pre-recorded tapes switching over to the new cobalt tape formulations which would have brought all the benefits we’ve just described would have cost a tape manufacturer somewhere between three to six cents per pre-recorded cassette this is for something that other time cost them approximately 50 to 70 cents to make which they could sell at retail first $6 97 and yet many of them decided they didn’t want to pay a few more cents so they stuck with good old ferric tape thereby denying their customers the benefit of the improved sound that cobalt could have brought if you want a perfect example of short-sighted penny pinching this is it now like many people I stopped buying cassettes sometime in the early nineties and switched over to CDs this is one of the last cassettes I bought from that era unfortunately it’s a Warner Brothers cassette it’s from 1991 and as you can see on the right hand side here it’s a digital log cassette now this is a year before the publicity campaign we mentioned earlier so it uses a different version of the logo also inside you’ll notice the cassette mentions Dolby H X Pro this was a technology that was introduced in the early 1980s by Bang & Olufsen later licensed by Dolby it enables cassettes to have better higher frequency response so it’s particularly useful on low-grade ferric tapes to bring those up more in line with a chrome tapes high frequency response and despite being introduced in the eighties it became more common later on as the tape duplication facilities replace their equipment with digital bins they also took the opportunity to add in Dolby HX Pro encoding now I can appreciate that my ice-t tape won’t be the best way to experience the best that digital OGG has to offer given the fact that it’ll be using samples and scratching and things so I decided to go on eBay and see what else I could find that was on digital log and I managed to get hold off Prince’s Greatest Hits tapes 1 & 2 from 1993 now bodies are at the earlier part of 2060 when Prince’s stuff was considerably less collectible and it is there and I was interested to find out what kind of Dolby noise reductions and systems were used on this however the logo on there is absolutely tiny but when you zoom in you can find it uses Dolby HX Pro and Dolby s now it’s extremely rare to find Dolby s used on a pre-recorded cassettes because whilst it can be decoded to some degree by Dolby B it sounds best using a Dolby s tape deck now I notice the tape in here looks like it’s ferric however it could be a ferric cobalt mix because those were quite common it’s impossible to know by looking at it however when it comes to listening to the tapes they do sound great here’s a very short copyright friendly snippet and just listen for the silence in the break [Music] now whilst that was only a very short snippet you should be able to tell from that that it does have good dynamic range on very low levels of background noise and in tests I’ve done with friends and family they all just thought that they were listening to a compact disc nobody guessed that it was a cassette so all the improvements we’ve mentioned in this video were intended to increase the lifetime of the cassette former in this article from 1992 the technology editor at Billboard expects cassettes to be around for another 15 to 20 years but in reality cassettes were pretty much as good as dead within 10 years their prediction of things eventually going optical or even to tiny computer chips like most predictions of the time didn’t anticipate the disruption that mp3s and the internet would bring pre-recorded cassettes are of course still being produced but only a tiny fraction of the volumes they were in the early 90s and none of the ones I bought recently appeared to use any type of Dolby noise reduction systems or HX probably all seem to come on plain old ferric tape compared to the hi-fi tapes of the early 90s nowadays they just seem to be treated more as fun collectible novelties however it’s more than likely that the tape duplicators are using a digital bin system because of its convenience but it’s by no means guaranteed I have seen some recent adverts from companies that duplicate tapes offering two different prices whether you want to duplicate using a digital bin or an analogue tape loop if you’ve kept hold of your old cassette collection and you’re buying cassettes into the 1990s then have a look through them see if you can find any with that digital log logo sticker on them if you do pop in your tape machine and have a listen I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality because contrary to popular opinion pre-recorded cassettes really could sound very good now remember there’s a couple of links in the video description text box but that’s it for the moment as always thanks for watching [Music] well this is boring nonsense if I wanted to learn about extinct things from the past I’d go to a museum so why you still watching it then I’m waiting for the funny bit at the end have you ever thought that maybe just answer those bits on at the end of videos that don’t turn out so good did he strike you from noticing how that was a funny sketch very matter thumbs up great video see sorry I wasn’t listening you were saying something about being distracted was I [Music] [Music] you you

100 thoughts on “Pre-recorded Cassettes’ Last Stand

  1. Sending digital signals directly to a tape recording head? Could be (and most likely has been) done, probably in the same way that Class D audio amps essentially send a digital signal directly to a speaker.

    It's not digital in the sense of sending byte after byte like you would find in a digital file. Rather it's a series of pulses (all at 100% power), the length of each pulse being relative to the instantaneous level of the audio signal in that moment.

  2. Thanks for the history lesson 🙂 back then I doesn't have any idea there are so many type of cassette tape I only know it's like a video tape but this is for audio,this bring back memories while I was a lot younger listening to a Walkman everywhere a go…

  3. In the early 90s i remember alot of tapes I bought pre-recorded were on type 2 CrO2. The levels could go much higher without distortion. From 1989 on, i never bought any blank tapes unless they were CrO2 or metal. Quite a difference in quality from normal.

  4. I stopped buying and using a cassette in 2004 my 91 dodge colt only had a tape deck and I had so many tapes I just stuck with them.

  5. NO WAY!! I've been posting found thrash original written by teens in 1990 REMASTERED from 4 track cassette recordings!! Have a look and listen if you like? /w METAL /w

  6. I never bought those because the sound wasn't very good. I'd give friends recordings made on my 3 head Nak (581) and they really liked them. When CDs came out i welcomed them and made tape copies to use in the car.

  7. I have been watching your videos on and off for months now . I am a new member thanks for all the interesting stuff ! My only exception is your annoyingly pompous English accent ; sorry just not accustom to it !

  8. Years ago I worked for a "Cats paw" we offered numerous methods of duplication. One of which was DAT master onto real-time recording from Nakamici BX1 decks. We had racks of these decks, and a guy who would flip the tapes and cue them to the beginning. Excellent sound, made for the best demo tapes bands could offer, but a bit pricey for most starting bands.

  9. I remember George Carlin's Classic Gold 2 cassette set that came out in 1992 came out on this Diglog format. I just thought it was some new silly label and besides in a few years I'd find out what actually happened to tapes when it got below 32 degrees 😛 Oh Spew…cd's could be played at 20 below and I'm sure mp3 players could care less if they were inside a block of ice..

  10. Thank you for this very enjoyable YouTube channel! I have greatly enjoyed your work and was very tempted to buy an RCA cartridge recorder after that video. I went with a Technics duel cassette machine with Dolby B & C, like new and for just $9.00 US, instead. Carry on and maybe find a way for one of your muppet friends to accompany you in one of the videos, even if just in some of the b-roll shots. Cheers.

  11. Digital bin-mastered cassettes were first marketed in 1987 as "DAAD", which looks like a pseudo-SPARS code but actually stands for "Digital Audio Analog Duplication". The WEA Group (Warner/Elektra/Atlantic) came up with the "Digalog" branding for their digital bin cassettes in 1991, although some other record companies continued to use the DAAD name, such as RCA Victor. The name "Digalog Plus" was also used to indicate Digalog cassettes that were "on Premium Cobalt Tape".

  12. Regarding copying computer cassettes – it was completely impossible to do it on any speed – only way to copy a Spectrum program would be to load it up, type LIST and copy that to another tape – except for the fact that pre-recorded Spectrum (and, I assume, Commodore 64) cassettes were written in machine code, you could not do it unless you were extremely technically-minded to access the machine code and know what the commands do – BASIC was complicated enough – I think there was a command in machine code that put a forerunner to DRM (Digital Rights Management) on it that made them impossible to copy!

  13. I have a number of Digalog cassettes in my collection, but unfortunately I haven't had a working player it years. In this day and age, how would you recommend obtaining a high quality deck to listen to them? By the ways, I'm not afraid of working on them if needed, as I used to work on them professionally in the early 90's.

  14. Wow. I like so much you investigation about all relacion a sound, music, gadgets, vintage equipment… !!! Hi from Mexico.

  15. Back in the day many of us never bought pre recorded tapes, just records and then taped them, not all of them, instead ……the smart choice

  16. 13:00 Prince's Nazi lawyers didn't take this video down? I couldn't even get away with using a live orchestral version of his songs in one of my videos.

  17. My Genesis Live The Way We Walk Vol. 2: The Longs caasette was a Digialog, and it sounded great on my old JVC boombox

  18. "sending digital pulses directly to a record head" sounds like it used PWM (pulse width modulation) to me – it would actually allow you to do that without any additional electronics.

  19. I was a master at laying down a nice quality CD dub onto tape. My dubs were as hot as possible,, without distortion, and I was a mixtape time optimization master. All the girls loved my mixtapes.

  20. I love everything about your videos. My favorite little Easter Eggs are watching for which straight-up gangsta albums you'll pull out next! Is it Ice-T? Big Daddy Kane? I wouldn't be surprised to see you whip out some Bone-Thuggz! Keep keepin it OG!

  21. I'd always suspected digalog had something to do with the miles better quality of my ZZ Top Greatest Hits tape versus… Well, every other tape I have. I thought it was just a gimmick with a silly made up word but it's very clear and clean even for its age. It's not perfect, and definitely not CD quality, but if I could go back and time and play it brand new I bet it'd be pretty darn close.

    But it is kind of sad that none of my parents other tapes really survived as well. I found The Dark Side of the Moon on a cassette tape and its a muffled, warbling, whispery mess. If only my parents had vinyl lol. That'd be nice.

  22. Don't forget to mention Thomas, a guy from Holland, who stil has a pre-recorded cassette tape factory De Bandjesfabriek. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbPGL1gkJcs

  23. I went to my parents basement and found a pre recorded cassette tape called "Stone Free a tribute to Jimi Hendrix" and contains songs by many different artists, it is digalog and has Dolby S

  24. To this day, I still feel disappointed most of my Iron Maiden collection – Arguably some of the best heavy music to come out of the 80s & 90s – Is recorded on normal Type-I cassettes…

    Surely these should have been released on Metal tape varieties? (-:

  25. "if like me you stopped buying cassettes in the early 90s" bruh I was born in 1993 and bought just about everything on cassette until about age 10 so it's fairly possible I haven't experienced many pre-recorded cassettes WITHOUT these improvements, especially before my parents gave me their old collection

  26. I still enjoy listening to cassette tapes and use blank tapes to record from the radio. Still lots of fun ❤️🌈☮️🇬🇧

  27. Thank you! Many decades after the last time I wondered what that pulsating sound at the end of a pre-recorded tape was for, you reminded me that I used to wonder about that, along with the answer. Of course, if you hadn't mentioned it, I probably wouldn't have given it another thought for the rest of my days.

  28. I buy lps from a company in Kansas. They recently released s few new albums on cassette. It's quite fun to go back in time. I love listening to cassettes and vinyl

  29. Thank you very much techmoan for posting such videos. It truely got me into nostalgic mode where i literally enjoyed my cassette collection,took care of them. & reminded me how i repair those broken cassettes..

  30. hi you can only get one kind of tape now on 1/8 pancakes you can't buy chrome pancake i lucky i got hold of some new seal 1/2 chrome tapes beware
    it not good for you can make you very ill i have to air all my pancakes in my garage

  31. Memories… The 74 minute cassettes near the end, of the cassette era, to record c.d.'s… Some brands touted how good c.d.'s sounded on their brand. I was still using cassettes after everyone else, now a few people are getting into them again.

  32. This video is somewhere fine to be back to for sure! Sometimes we anxiously wait for a new release forgetting that much material so much delightfully worth to watch a second or third time once a significant amount of time has gone by..

  33. Those improvements were all well and fine back in the day when cassettes were trying to compete with CDs but I'm glad modern manufacturers stick to crappy ferric tape. If I wanted a crisp clean sound I could just buy a CD.

  34. I never liked cassettes, except for car radio, because before cd burners it was the only way to listen to recorded music in the car.
    but cassettes always sounded way inferior to cd's and vinyl records.

    but I would like to own a real good reel-to-reel tape machine because they sound great!

    but cassettes are like VHS. an inferior outdated medium that has no advantage in sound quality at all.

    mein senf dazu.

  35. Amazing, having bought lots of music cassettes through that period I never knew how involved it all was. I was very much aware of the hiss from the different types of tape that I recorded onto though (I do remember that chrome & metal were the ones i tried to use for my favourite music of the time!) Thanks for the insight!

  36. My last cassette I bought was in 2001 by that point all my music was being bought on cd. It was perfect to me back in the day as only had a tape player but as I got a very good hi fi there were no longer any need to buy them.

  37. I remember using TDK MAXG metal tapes amazing quality and build..then I found THAT'S MRXPro cassettes from Japan wow..just wow…the headroom on them cassettes and frequency response. I swear that no one cold tell which was CD or Casette when I used these in a TEAC three head deck when biased correctly.

  38. This cassette duplication process explanation was really eye-opening to me. I remember getting a tape copy of a soundtrack in 1996 that I really really wanted only to end up with- what I believe- was one of those dreaded last-run final copies. The audio would fade in and out on one side or the other of the stereo field, leaving about two seconds of near silence in either the left or right speaker and it drove me crazy.

  39. They wanted 8 track tape to die so you would have to buy cassettes- same as albums so that you would then have to buy all your music all over once again on CD because of greed….then came digital where it can all be had for free for the most part and now they cry foul after their own greed killed their golden goose. I only buy albums and cassettes 2nd hand which they make nothing from as well, so I get the last laugh. But they did soak me 3 times over 30 years. I don't feel sorry for them one bit because digital downloads bankrupted most of these greedy bastards. They had a good thing going and pissed it away due to their own greed and shortsightedness.

  40. Growing up in the 90's, we were too broke to afford CDs, so yes, we still played cassettes. I fondly remember my mom's copy of Depeche Mode 's "Songs of Faith and Devotion." I clearly remember the Digalog sticker on the back. Played brilliantly on my dad's Sony cassette deck/home stereo. We didn't move onto CDs until around 1999.

  41. Here in Germany we had the Teldec Company that recorded a lot of albums to CrO2 Tapes. I still have a lot of these because they still sound quite good.

  42. Just got into listening to and collecting cassettes again recently for a bit of fun, and had no clue how they were made prior to the newer way of making them, so that portion was really fun to watch. The tapes I have would be from the mid to late 80s, and they're all Capital records label, with a beep at the beginning to "show the listener that they are from the original master." Not so sure how that works, but interesting nonetheless. 🙂

  43. I've got a good question for you – how do you search for metal tapes on ebay without getting a load of heavy metal tapes coming up?!

  44. Nobody tried to tackle the problem of cassette tapes going dull after accidentally being placed an inch or closer to electric guitar and bass guitar pickups back then?

  45. Before watching your videos I thought I was rather aware about the audio and video systems of the last 40 years, I couldn't be more wrong !!

  46. Knowing my ass, I would have own a cassette player in the 90s I don't have money definitely didn't back then

  47. Most of the pre-recorded cassettes I bought in the early 90s sounded like crap. It really pissed me how what I recorded from radio in my cheap home equipment sounded WAY better. Lot of money wasted in that pile of tapes. It sucks because cassettes were not that bad.

  48. And we all recorded and exchanged out music for 40-60 years and nobody complained not even a record label, really nobody ! Then SONNY BONO Became a Congressman and changed copyright laws from 20 years to like 70-80 years ! thats right after 20 years it was free to the public in order to maintain a free society !
    ALL so he could own the rights to Sonny and Cher's hit single " I GOT YOU BABE " forever really

  49. And we all recorded and exchanged out music for 40-60 years and nobody complained not even a record label, really nobody ! Then SONNY BONO Became a Congressman and changed copyright laws from 20 years to like 70-80 years ! thats right after 20 years it was free to the public in order to maintain a free society !
    ALL so he could own the rights to Sonny and Cher's hit single " I GOT YOU BABE " forever really

  50. And we all recorded and exchanged out music for 40-60 years and nobody complained not even a record label, really nobody ! Then SONNY BONO Became a Congressman and changed copyright laws from 20 years to like 70-80 years ! thats right after 20 years it was free to the public in order to maintain a free society !
    ALL so he could own the rights to Sonny and Cher's hit single " I GOT YOU BABE " forever really

  51. the cassette was doomed as soon as the CD appeared, there´s no way to improve tapes without hurting it, one of the key features of its succes was that was cheap for the masses…

  52. I'm newer have tape player with hx-pro nr system, but in market it was hard to find prerecorded cassets without hx-pro nr sound. That records sounds ugly and harsh on my tape player because it does not have hx-pro nr system. And when I realized I couldn't buy a new record without this fucking DOLBY HX PRO, I cursed these all compact cassettes. Dolby HX pro is the worst thing that could happen with cassettes. Because no one knew that this and 99% of all the players available to consumers were not equipped with this system. That's why everyone began to think that cassettes sound awful compared to compact disc.

  53. Cobalt tapes are actually ferro oxide tapes with an addition of cobalt which improves its magnetic properties. And the properties could be varied a lot, so they either produced type I tapes with slightly improved high frequency response, or type II tapes which matched chrome tapes without using chrome. While the Americans (Dupont) and Germans (AGFA, BASF) produced true chrome tapes, the Japanese TDK and Maxell produced "type II high position" tapes without chrome, in order to avoid licensing the chrome technology. Here is an article in german that explains the different types of tape: http://www.magnetbandmuseum.info/w-bruch-artikel-nr66.html

  54. Last pre-recorded cassette I bought was in 2008 It's even stamped c2008. I still buy and record on blank tapes today.

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