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This entirely-typical-of-the-era (other than mysteriously missing its EAR socket) tape recorder from 1984 was the "standard" type of tape deck for home computer data storage in the UK.

They could be battery powered, had a large mono speaker and tinny inbuilt microphone, carry handle, and a volume control on the side along with sockets for earphone output, microphone input and "remote" input, where an external device could stop or start the tape.

When did this particular form factor and feature set evolve, and what did people use them for before their heyday as a home computer peripheral?

Dixons TR12 cassette recorder

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    They made terrible boom boxes and were too big to be usable as a walkman. I'm guessing maybe field recording, and there were external microphones with on/off switches? – hexwab Jan 19 at 10:11
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My father had one bought in Singapore in the 1970s. Their appeal was that they were portable recording devices. A microphone with a long lead would plug into the mic and rem sockets. The microphone would have a switch on the side which could be used to pause the recording or playback of the tape. Journalists, academics etc would put the recorder in a bag and use the mic to start and stop the recording. Before this, the main home recording technology was reel to reel tape machines, which were very heavy and large because of the size of the reels.

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    The remote input was actually used most by such microphones. Home computers nearly never relied on them to control the tape, but rather printed "Start tape, then press any key" – tofro Jan 19 at 10:32
  • I think that how they used the remote input depended on the company making the computer. Sharp used it on their PocketComputer series. Even had two remote ports on some versions. – UncleBod Jan 19 at 13:56
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    I agree with this answer. A schoolfriend of mine had one of the original Phillips portable cassette recorders; this would have been in the late 1960s. As I recall, the microphone had a stop-start switch. – another-dave Jan 19 at 16:46
  • @UncleBod but even software for those machines with motor control outputs — which also includes at least the Acorns and the MSX — couldn't assume the user was using the proper tape player and cable. – Tommy Jan 19 at 16:58
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    In cassette recorders of this type, the motor current passed throught the "remote" socket, which had a bypass contact when nothing was plugged in. More compact machines were available for print journalists; broadcast journalists frequently used the Uher Report 4000 reel-to-reel recorder, which was not particularly large or heavy. – grahamj42 Jan 19 at 20:42
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Keep in mind that in that era, cassettes were positively rubbish for recording music, and nobody expectd them to succeed at that. For music you used reel-reel or an 8-track, which had reel-reel's 3-3/4" or even 7-1/2" tape speed. Cassettes were a paltry 1-7/8". They were for voice dictation and the like, where the remote makes a world of sense.

It wasn't until some time later that cassettes improved (with better media that could be saturated much harder, and technologies like Dolby B and HX) to make them bearable as music players.

Anyway, the remote was for dictation, but I recall there being first-gen PCs that made use of it.

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