Perhaps you’re old enough to remember making mixtapes. Sitting by the radio, waiting for “Truly, Madly, Deeply” or some other awful, awful song to come on, and scrambling to press record on your tape deck before the intro ended. Then, oblivious to the fact that maybe Cypress Hill’s “Rock Superstar” didn’t exactly make the best transition into “The Sweater Song,” you’d bang out an hour’s worth of jams. That was fun, right?
Now, Brooklyn’s 3D-printing-for-the-masses enterprise MakerBot is hoping to bring that magical, twee-as-fuck experience back to today’s cold reality of Spotify playlists and Pandora stations. Using either a MakerBot printer or parts ordered from the company’s online store, you can craft custom, 3D-printed mixtapes that don’t require anything other than a pair of headphones for listening. Simply connect the thing to your computer via USB, drag songs onto it, and plug your ‘phones straight into the tape.
It’s relatively easy to poke fun at this kind of thing–using hyper-current technology to replicate a quaint experience from the past in the name of nostalgia–but I still think it’s cool. First, because anything 3D-printed is awesome, period–and second, because there really is something to be said for having a physical object to give someone when you want to share music, and not everyone still has the equipment to make and listen to actual tapes. The digital-music-as-physical-object thing has been done before (see Playbutton), but MakerBot wins points for customizability, good design, and again, awesome 3D printing.