Few people have heard of it, yet many consider John Blankenbaker's KENBAK-1 to be the first commercial personal computer.

Koss introduced these headphones over 40 years ago, and they remain affordable favorites to this day.

A Prized Nakamichi Tape Deck

Nak attack!

[Here's long-time reader Nash Rambler to tell you about his prized cassette deck...]

This Nakamichi 482Z from 1981 is my favorite cassette deck for a number of personal and practical reasons.  On the personal side, my father purchased it new in the early eighties when we were overseas; he recalls paying somewhere in the range of $500 as opposed to the $950 MSRP figure I found online.

Although I was just a kid when it appeared in our house I soon realized that it performed better than the other players I got my grimy little hands on.  The 482Z set itself apart with light touch controls and smooth, quiet operation.  No heavy clunks or jarring grinds with this unit, and the way the tape drawer gracefully opened entranced me.  Naturally, I was forbidden to touch it until I was older.

Nak logo

On the practical side, Nakamichi was a name that embodied top quality in cassette players from the early 70's all the way to the 90's.  The direct descendant of an electromagnetic research institute founded a few years after WWII, their early products were reel-to-reel machines branded under other companies.  With the development of the compact cassette, Nakamichi found itself on the cutting edge and released a number of high-end milestone stereo products under their own banner.  With the production of their famous models 1000 and 700, they quickly became known for their dedication in extracting the best possible sound from cassettes, as well as staggeringly high price tags.

My own 482Z hailed from their "budget" line (meaning "expensive" as opposed to "outrageous,") but the list of features shows that the company didn't cut any corners.  Dolby NR processors, separate motors for take-up and capstan, discrete three head system for playback, recording and erasing, +/- 10% fine bias adjustment control, and cassette media selection buttons to get the best from the type of tape you were recording to.  The "Z" seems to mean it also got an LED peak level meter and bias control as opposed to just analog dial meters on a regular 482; I can't see any other difference between the models.

Headshot

Despite the passage of time, the styling doesn't look dated.  It definitely comes from the "sleek, flat, black" school of stereo design, which may help.  I had to carefully clean the belts of dust due to minor slippage, but that has been the only issue.  It now performs flawlessly, delivering a clean, crisp sound across the board.  No muffled bass or tinny trebles here, and wow and flutter have yet to plague it.  I can still revel in the magnetic analog glory of LL Cool J, The Talking Heads, and Kenny Rogers.

I only wish the company had fared as well as my deck.  When CD's hit the market in a large way, Nakamichi remained heavily invested in analog tape technology and released several terrific DAT system players that failed to compete.  Over the next few years, it struggled to maintain its' premier spot in the high-end world of audio electronics.  The company went into bankruptcy in 2002 and although they emerged and continue to make high-end components for the home, Nakamichi is a mere shadow of it's former self. -- Nash Rambler, Esq.

related:
Birth of the Compact Audio Cassette
Sony Walkman Turns 30, Feels A Bit Overweight

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