The Ultimate Thrift Store Find?

IMG_20160729_214010592It’s kind of remarkable how much home electronics change in such a short period of time. Devices go from being in high demand to thrift store relics seemingly overnight.  Items that we once gladly spent princely sums of money on now sell for pennies on the dollar, if they sell at all. Take a trip to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army and you’re sure to find VCRs, DVD players, and obsolete iPod docks by the dozen, and all for a cost of little to nothing.

Cassette decks are also a good example of this. What used to be an important part of everyone’s home stereo system is now a technological dinosaur, relegated to the thrift store shelf, hoping to be rescued by middle aged guys like me who may still have a use for them. Even good quality, three head units can be found for a couple of bucks, not to mention a million old audio cassettes to play on them. Still, even with all of this in mind, I never expected to find one of the holy grails of old school analog audio waiting for me at the Salvation Army.

For those who are old enough to remember, the name Nakamichi is synonymous with the best cassette decks ever made. Their Dragon deck was a marvel of 80s engineering, and is still considered by some to be the best cassette deck ever produced. What set the Dragon apart from its contemporaries was its auto-reverse mechanism. When you came to the end of your cassette tape, the Dragon would not only automatically reverse the direction and play the other side, it would also adjust the playback head to maintain the correct angle, and give you the best fidelity possible. While this sounds simple, it was quite the engineering feat.

IMG_20160730_165401567The RX-505, which came a long a little later, solved the problem a little differently. Rather than reversing the direction of the tape, the 505 would actually flip the tape over for you. This eliminated the need for a moving playback head all together, and allowed for the same quality of audio playback at a much lower price. keep in mind that the phrase ‘lower price’ is a relative thing. The Dragon deck retailed for around $4000, while the RX-505 could be picked up for a paltry $1500. Even today, when the cassette tape is as obsolete as the bi-plane and the steel wheeled roller skate, these decks will set you back about a grand on eBay.

Needless to say, I never expected to find a Nakamichi RX-505 at the Salvation Army, let alone one in mint condition, complete with manual, sales brochure, a cut out review from Audiophile Magazine, and a tape head demagnetizer. Hell, the thing even had the original green Nakamichi dust cloth still in its cellophane wrapper! their asking price:


Folks, I may be a lot of things, but dumb enough to pass up a deck like this for $10 is not one of them. After doing a quick test to make sure it powered up, I grabbed that sucker and high tailed it out of that store before they came to their senses.

That was a couple of months ago, and the deck has performed flawlessly since then. It’s been a lot of fun rediscovering my thirty year old cassettes (which still play just fine, by the way), and trying to remember what I was thinking when I put together some of those god awful mixed tapes. I haven’t tried to record anything with it yet, but I just bought a case of blank cassettes still sealed in their original cellophane wrappers for $2 (thank you, Goodwill!), so I’d guess it will be happening. Who knows, maybe my friends will be getting mixed tapes for Christmas?

The technology may be dead, but the dinosaur lives on.

Cruel Summer

It has been my experience that there is no such thing as planning for the future. Sure you can make them, but you better have a plan B and C ready to go, and you better build those with an escape hatch or two in case they start to take on water. Whenever I haven’t done this, and remained focused on my bullet proof, can’t lose Plan A is when I’ve gotten myself in trouble. It doesn’t matter how simple, clever, or well thought out it may be, Plan A really stands for ‘plan to cover your ass’.

Of course, I didn’t follow my own advice. Apparently I needed a refresher course on what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men, or the consequences of counting your chickens before they hatch, and they have been pretty hard lessons indeed.  Without going into details, let’s just say I have attained a hereto unknown realm of broke-ness that will from here on be referred to as “The Tim.”

So what does one do when they screw up like this? Well, after I shook off the feeling of impending doom, and the realization that my life was in a tailspin, I crawled out of my fetal position and did the only thing I could, and that was deal with the situation. I started floating applications for a second job, which has landed me a 20 hour a week position at the sporting goods counter of my friendly local WalMart. It’s not much, but it will allow me to pay off my incurred debt in a much more timely fashion. As an added bonus, they’re paying me more than target offered, AND I’ll be selling guns and ammunition, which always makes me smile. I wonder if I can convince them to carry ARs?

When I re-launched, I figured I’d write a few product reviews here and there, and comment about whatever I felt like writing about at a given time. There might be the occasional interruption from time to time when grad school got heavy, but I’d bounce back when I could with some amusing story or unlikely adventure. Well, I’ve certainly gotten my unlikely adventure, and truth be told? I’m kind of looking forward to this.

I’m planning on it.