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Thursday, July 03, 2014

Swire/Intermagnetics "Rainbow Tape"

Some folks on our own Facebook page brought up perhaps everyone's favourite cheapo recording cassette tape of the '80s. The infamous, but lovable Swire/Intermagnetics "rainbow tape".

You may be surprised to know the quality of the first Swire/Intermagnetics cassettes were once surprisingly good for a cheap recording tape in 1978. They were once properly packaged in individual cases with J-cards. And best yet, Fuji made the actual tape (it was an early formulation.) 

Early Intermagnetics J-card. "Micra 6".....Sounds like one of Prince's '80s protege bands...
The first (and best) Intermagnetics tapes looked like this. No rainbow on the tape label.

Early Intermagnetics cassettes were also sold in special interlocking modular cassette display cases you could hang on the wall.
By 1980 however, something went wrong. Fuji started mass marketing their cassettes on their own label in America and right about this time, Intermagnetics tapes went from great value to utter crap. Gone were the cases, J-cards and good quality tape and here was a cassette tape of barely even dictation quality. It's been said they bought spools of rejected tape stock from other manufacturers for their line of cheap 3 packs.

In 1982, Intermagnetics went to a plain black rainbow-less tape label before vanishing from the market when Swire decided to change the brand name of their blank cassettes to Laser.

When the first Laser cassettes came out, I was really excited because I thought it might be a return to form for Swire with decent packaging. But sadly, these first generation Laser cassettes were NOTHING like the first generation Intermagnetics. VERY lousy tape stock was used on the Laser cassettes.

And then it was back to this....
Swire eventually disappeared in the mid '80s. However their old stocks of Intermagnetic and Laser cassettes continued to be sold into the mid '90s in many drug stores across America. 

(Mike Healy from our Facebook page reminds us that Recoton made their own "rainbow tape". I completely forgot about this - L.)


1 comment:

  1. My brother and I would incessantly tape everything off of the radio in the late 70s and early 80s, often reusing the same tape for weeks until we could crash dump the good stuff onto a more archival cassette.
    We were connoisseurs of cheap-but-serviceable brands of cassettes. The Intermagnetic rainbow cassette was our tape of choice. I still have many of them and 30+ years down the road, many of them are still playable.
    I think it helped that our mom worked at a department store that carried them and could buy them at cut-rate.
    Once they went to the solid black plastic shell, they were utter crap, though. I didn't know Laser was related to Intermagnetic. We always thought those tapes sucked and would use the term Laser to describe anything really cheap and cheesy.
    Thanks for rewinding my memory!


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