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Top Tapes - Gwydir Street

Anyone ever been in this shop when it was open?

I've been thinking about this shop quite a bit recently, the faded sign looks like it used to be called Roll On Tapes, or something like that. How long ago did it close down, it's never been open as long as I've lived here. It still has loads of old stickers in the window for old tape formats of days gone by...

Published by JetSetWilly at 2:45pm on Thu 18th December 2008. Viewed 8,154 times.

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Published by grabsplatter (not active) at 2:48pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Ah, the legend that was The Roll On Blank Tape Centre. Always thought it must have been a front for something else, but it could be really handy if you needed to buy quarter-inch tape, or really short cassettes, or something. Last time I went in there was in the early 90s, just around the time that CD-Rs came out. They were charging six pounds each for them.

Published by sam i at 2:49pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

When did it closed? And how come no one's rented the shop since?

Published by JetSetWilly at 2:49pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

The location of video / photoshoots for both Micropenis and The Resistance no less...

I've heard many stories about this shop, and how it was a front for SOMETHING and it was impossible to make a profit selling tapes. The front was for drugs, prostitution, smuggling, protection rackets or laundering. It varied depending on who in the pub was telling the story.

Published by Silent Rob at 2:52pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

It's tiny, not sure what other business you could possibly fit in there.

Published by sam i at 2:52pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Seems weird, someone must own it and/or be losing money off of it just sitting there empty.

Published by JetSetWilly at 2:53pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

I hope it's there forever. Whatever it was.

Published by bigsoulstew (not active) at 2:58pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

I used to buy CDRs from there back in 1998/1999 before they were a really common thing.
You really needed to make sure you had a free afternoon if you did need to buy any media from there as you could never ever get out without a long chat with the owner... about tape... or some other form of recordable media

Last I saw, the guy that used to run it was working on the checkouts at tesco on Newmarket Road. You'd know who it is because he's always really chatty, funnily enough. Not sure he's still there though.

Published by BossaPete at 3:00pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Rhyhtm mailorde rused to have a house a few doors up from it and I used to go and get my monthly stash of vinyl then nip in there for my Maxell gold XLII cassettes? I think those were the ones, the guy was always "TDK are better" - not to my ears. "I'm on my lunch break -shit the hell up and give me what I want". I was straight edge back then so had no idea about the drugs angle.

Published by ababoonsass at 3:18pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

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Published by kunoichi (not active) at 3:27pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

We used to live next door. Man was kinda boring, went on a bit. I never went in, used to wait outside while Mr J1 went in. People sometimes thought Rhythm was in his shop (rather than our house) and vice versa.

Published by Jude 1 (not active) at 3:34pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

It was definitely open around 1994-1995 because around that time I used to cycle past it to go to flute lessons on Ainsworth Street.

Published by Three Headed Lizard at 3:41pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

The guy still works in Newmarket Road tesco. I saw him the other day.

Published by greenmindgigs at 3:45pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

It was a post office in the early 1980's.

Published by molly at 3:54pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

I was an audio tech student at APU 96-99, and I'm pretty sure I bought a minidisk from there in an emergency during my final year project, which would mean he was still trading in 1999.

Pete Um used to have an amusing story on his website about running into Mr Roll On in Tescos. I've got an idea he was somehow related to the Gee's (of H fame) too, but could just be making this up.

Published by the Magnificent Robe at 3:59pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

I was a customer at top tape. The guy who worked there may not be a CAMBRIDGE graduate but was trying to make a honest living. goods were cheaper than from Robert Sayle.
When the place was closed ; tapes went to GEES who are the owners. I got tapes from GEES later.

Published by chandra at 3:59pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Genius!

Published by DJ Ohmygod at 4:00pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

"The guy who worked there may not be a CAMBRIDGE graduate but was trying to make a honest living".

Have you heard of Nick Griffin?

Published by Three Headed Lizard at 4:02pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Does Gees still exist?

Published by Dr Rhythm at 4:03pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

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Published by Janeyferr (not active) at 4:03pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

chandra is a lunar god, that's pretty special.

Published by DJ Ohmygod at 4:04pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Oh man. My first band got a "high quality" cassette from there to make our first demo, as we practiced around the corner. Must have been about 2001/2002 we got that. All four of us went in and we could barely fit.

Published by mudsharkinterview at 4:28pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

I used to get tapes from there too - and I also had the notion that it was connected with Gees (yes Dr R, Gees is still going).

Published by Kuryakin at 4:33pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

I wonder what's in there now, there could be loads of cool stuff behind those locked doors!!

Published by JetSetWilly at 4:33pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

What's Gees???

Published by ababoonsass at 4:37pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Do you really not know Gees? http://cambridge.openguides.org/wiki/?H_Gee

Published by greenmindgigs at 4:39pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Oh yeah, I knew it but didn't place the name to shop... haven't been in Gee's since I was a kid... is that electrical store still over the bridge near the ABC??

I like Cutlacks... kinda place my dad spent hours in and left me to hone my art of pre-teen shoplifting.

Published by ababoonsass at 4:51pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

The dry cleaners at Mitchams corner. If you can escape without a half hour conversation and the owners life story you're doing well

Published by dukepowers at 4:52pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

is that electrical store still over the bridge near the ABC??

GAN. No - moved to Barnwell Drive, I think they just do repairs now.

Published by Kuryakin at 4:56pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Gees is great - there are just so few shop like it that are still around. I was thinking yesterday about the traditional tobacconist that used to be in the market place - all dark wood and little drawers - I used to buy Sobranie Black Russians from there and they would do what ever tobacco mix you wanted plus, of course, they sold incredibly expensive cigars.

Published by Dr Rhythm at 4:57pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

There's still that tobacconist near the Round Church, isn't there? Although once the "no displaying cigarettes" law comes in, they may not be able to carry on...

Published by Jude 1 (not active) at 4:58pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

I hadn't even thought about that - fascists!!

Published by Dr Rhythm at 5:05pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

I remember Top Tapes!
I used to buy piles of blank tapes from there...the guy who worked there was very odd as I remember...never said much...always came out into the shop from the room at the back...it had a strange smell...the shop...Very dark inside...
It was a sad day for Cambridge when it closed...and it did indeed move to Gee's.
I love Gee's...so much treasure in that shop.

Published by whitecat at 5:26pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

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Published by Janeyferr (not active) at 5:28pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Does anyone remember the Co-Op or similar such supermarket on the Market Square? I think it may be Gap now?

Also, where Rymans is, there used to be a sports/outdoor store called, I think, Wakefields?? Also the big discount shoe shop over the bridge on Mill Road on the right?

I love remembering the old shops and places in Cambridge that are no more. McKenzies burger bar on Mill road (now Fagitos)... Our Price on Bridge Street for the 7"s and badges... Record Bar on East Road that changed to Focus and then re-located with it's next door neighbours Cambridge Re-sale to Mill Road.

Christmas time always makes me think back to the 70s and 80s when everyone I loved was still alive and it was fun.

Anyhooo...

Published by ababoonsass at 5:38pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

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Published by Janeyferr (not active) at 5:40pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Our Price on Bridge Street was a Harlequin until 1980 and that was the only place where Corn Exchange tickets were sold (no box office in those days) - also got my ticket for Led Zep at Knebworth from there but never a record - Andys, BGO and, most importantly, Remember Those Oldies were the places for my vinyl fix.

Wasn't it a Gateway in the market place? The market tramps used to be waiting in line for their sherry first thing every morning.

Published by Dr Rhythm at 5:58pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

The supermarket where Gap now is was the International.

I remember Harlequin (for Corn Exchange tickets, but not records, as you rightly point out Dr R) and also remember those Oldies (48 King Street) - I seem to remember the guy who ran it was called Lee.

I vaguely remember a Waitrose food supermarket in town. Also - who remembers the Tescos where Mandela House now is?

Published by Kuryakin at 6:51pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Also - Fine Fare on Mill Road (now Sally Army shop); Boots (where Digital Village is); Cambrews (home brew shop).

Grapevine Bookshop - Fitzroy Street, then East Road,then Dales Brewery before it finally disappeared. I was a volunteer there - for one day then I got a paying job, so financial considerations had to outweigh ideological ones.

Jays Records,Laurie & McConnalls, jesus I sound like the memory page in the Crier.

Published by Kuryakin at 7:16pm on Thu 18th December 2008.

Prestos at the Grafton Centre

Andy's Records on the market

Old Addenbrookes

And yes you do sound like the Town Crier memory page Kuryakin ;) I am so tempted to write in just to upset a regular contributor except I don't know anything although they published a picture of the circus elephants the other week and that was one of the few things I can remember going to see as my dad worked at the station at the time.

Published by MsSmith (not active) at 9:02am on Fri 19th December 2008.

I always want to send in spoof letters about those memory pictures -
"Your picture of the old milk float on Hills Road in the 1950s reminds me of helping out at the dairy on Saturday mornings when I was at school. I was responsible for putting half a teaspoon of human excrement into each churn, in order to heighten the risk of disease and kill off a small proportion of the population. This was part of a secret government initiative to reduce the burden on the state in the post-war years and we would have got a terrible ticking off from our supervisor if we had told anyone about it at the time. Happy days".

Published by Kuryakin at 9:17am on Fri 19th December 2008.

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Published by mrdonkey (not active) at 9:19am on Fri 19th December 2008.

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Published by twoddle (not active) at 9:21am on Fri 19th December 2008.

I got my 1/4" 8 track tape from there, about the only place you could find such stuff. Along with the Maxells chromes for my 4 track. He tried branching out into magic tricks which I thought stightly dubious, not a great combination. Wish was still there though.

Published by Spyder at 9:40am on Fri 19th December 2008.

It was a front for puppy videos

edited for legal reasons

Published by goatwolf at 10:04am on Fri 19th December 2008.
This reply has been edited, last edit at 12:26pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

Maxell tapes were the business. I miss tapes... I have hundreds of the buggers still... but no tape player!

Published by ababoonsass at 10:41am on Fri 19th December 2008.

You can have mine if you like. I want shot of it. Buy me a couple of pints and it's yours.

Published by greenmindgigs at 10:43am on Fri 19th December 2008.

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Published by mrdonkey (not active) at 11:09am on Fri 19th December 2008.

I remember hearing the 'front for porn' rumour at the time RoT was still open. Maybe it was just the unique atmosphere of the place that sparked off stories?

No, it was the speed with which the guy leaped off his chair to turn his telly off anytime someone entered the shop that sparked the stories!

Published by the Magnificent Robe at 11:38am on Fri 19th December 2008.

I remember someone once telling me the Wrestlers was also a knocking shop.

Published by JetSetWilly at 11:42am on Fri 19th December 2008.

One of the other Newmarket Road pubs (maybe the Five Bells?) definitely was a brothel. I heard this from someone who had to clean the baby oil out of the carpet after they shut.

Published by sam i at 11:44am on Fri 19th December 2008.

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Published by kunoichi (not active) at 11:50am on Fri 19th December 2008.
This reply has been edited, last edit at 12:27pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

"you cna have mine if you want" - tapeplayer?? Or homemade porno video???!!

If you have a tape player then I will take it... won't blow up like the amp will it?? ;-))

Let me know... definitely...

If it's the porno vid... I'll pass... no offence.

Published by ababoonsass at 12:08pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

There was a small record shop open while I was still at APU. Can't remember what it was called but it had the ska man logo painted on the side of the house it was situated in. Think it was called Hot Rocks or Hot Numbers. Went in there a few times. it's a shame places like that close.

Published by newportandy at 12:16pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

Double tape deck, Aiwa. Doesn't come with a free georgie, so nothing involved with it should blow up the amp.

Published by greenmindgigs at 12:16pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

No, it was the speed with which the guy leaped off his chair to turn his telly off anytime someone entered the shop that sparked the stories!

YES!!!!!!! This is what happened to me!!!

Published by goatwolf at 12:19pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

I think some of the comments that specifically name companies as outlets for money laundering etc should possibly removed. Without any proof these comments are more than a tad libellous.

Published by greenmindgigs at 12:21pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

There was a small record shop open while I was still at APU. Can't remember what it was called but it had the ska man logo painted on the side of the house it was situated in. Think it was called Hot Rocks or Hot Numbers. Went in there a few times. it's a shame places like that close.

That was Hot Numbers, run by stalwart local soul DJ Max Rees.

Published by Kuryakin at 12:35pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

They've "property developed" that place into a house or flats, but have kept the picture on the side of the house, which pleased me.

Published by Jude 1 (not active) at 12:39pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

Simon - I will take it. Tomorrow maybe?

Published by ababoonsass at 12:42pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

Last time I went into one of the local brothels to enquire about purchasing some sexual services, I was told that they could procure some cassettes for me. I was offered chrome, ferric, TDK, sony, the lot. It was suggested to me that I could have C60, C90 or even C120 if I wanted. I was so disgusted that I left immediately, without even staying for a soulless handjob.

Published by Kuryakin at 12:46pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

The paintings on the side of Hot Numbers really need to be photographed by someone who'll do a good job of it and the pictures kept for posterity because, sooner or later, someone will paint over them. "Apocalypse Now" on the Coldham's Lane bridge has already been lost (due to some well-meaning wag altering it to "If not now, when?" for those who don't know. I'd do it myself, but I drink far too much to hold a camera steady even when sober.
Anyone fancy taking up the challenge?

Published by John Techno at 1:03pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

I think Martin Parr has photographed the Hot Numbers mural, as I remember seeing it on the Grand Arcade hoardings while it was under construction.

I couldn't find that image on a quick search, but I didn't realise he'd done a portait of the people from Gee's:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2008/nov/01/photography...

I'm another person who used to get Maxell XLIIs from Roll on Tapes, when I used to visit people in Cambridge a while before I actually moved here.

Published by bad-timing at 1:34pm on Fri 19th December 2008.
This reply has been edited, last edit at 1:35pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

remember i used to go in roll on tape for C120's in the days when I would stay up or come home for the Essential Mix. Still have some great tapes from that period that one day i will get round to converting to Cd etc.
Talking of upper Gwydir Street does the semi long haired torty cat still hang around there sitting on top of bins and cars etc. Always used to say hello on my way to work when i went that route.
I seem to remember in Clarendon Street, think it was by the vets on the outside wall. There used to be a sign for 'Old Friend Tobacco' . Wonder how old that is.

Published by marcosthebubble at 1:38pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

um_header_12

Also:

Published by bad-timing at 2:17pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

I've photographed the Hot Numbers mural. I've got one of those facebook account thingy's and it's on there somewhere amongst all the crap. Just do a search for Andrew Hurst and you should find me if you wish.

Published by newportandy at 2:23pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

I think the shop was still a post office in the early 90s, but due to the fact that I spent a whole year in the mid 90s taping the John Peel show and then editing the tapes onto other tapes with covert field recordings (on tape) I had a lot of dealings with Ian and a lot of fond memories of the shop as Roll On Tapes. It's true that all tapes came with a long explanation/conspiracy theory, but it was OK unless you were in a hurry. I once even tried to tape Ian but for once he just sold me my tapes like an entirely normal tape retailer.

I think the porn/front stuff is likely to stem from the shop's perceived oddness and therefore not true. I also think that there is some family connection with Gees but I may be wrong.

There's an Um song called "Rendered Invisible In Roll On" about being so apocalyptically hungover that I couldn't manifest enough of a human personality/presence to get served in turn by Ian.

The story on the Um site that TMR mentions above is this one:

http://www.umbusiness.co.uk/?p=238

Published by HarryGibbons at 3:19pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

I think one of the Delegates of Culture used a pic of the Hot Numbers mural for an album cover. Maybe Inja or Skuff...

Published by goatwolf at 4:17pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

' I wonder what the new 'Fredericks' hair & beauty place is like? '

Frederick is a fantastic place to go and have a haircut or new colour and beauty treatments galore!

It's the fabulous hairdresser Rhy's new salon...THE new place to go.

Here's what the Explorer magazine wrote about it...

Frederick, the new salon at Mitcham’s Corner on Chesterton Road, is now open. This is the culmination of two years’ work and planning by family and friends but for Rhys Baldwin it is a dream come true. After 20 years in the hair and beauty business he now has a salon of his own where he can impose his high standards of expertise and, just as importantly, high standards of customer service. At the Frederick salon Rhys wants the customer to be the sole focus of all the staff during the visit, so clients leave the salon feeling valued and looking good.

What’s on offer at Frederick?
Well, great hair styling and colouring of course, a nail bar plus a fabulous beauty room which has been soundproofed to make the relaxing and pampering treatments even more effective. The men have not been forgotten either – male grooming is an important part of the salon’s range. Rhys would like to take the opportunity offered here to thank sincerely all clients who have remained loyal during his time in the “wilderness”. He is very grateful for their patience. Finally, on a seasonal note, why not start your Christmas celebrations by paying Frederick a visit to have a look around, enjoy a freshly made cup of tea or coffee (or perhaps a glass of wine?) and chat to Rhys, who will be delighted to see you and make you welcome.

Published by whitecat at 5:39pm on Fri 19th December 2008.
This reply has been edited, last edit at 5:39pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

I too remember venturing into Roll On Tapes in search of open reel tape after I discovered reel-to-reel recording years ago. All these descriptions above are exactly as I remember! Also love Gees... must have spent hundreds of pounds there on patch leads and audio adaptors for my studio.

Hey, Presto in the Grafton Centre... I remember my family doing the weekly shop there in the early 80s, until we found some little eggs in a sealed pack of pork chops! They offered us a replacement but we declined.

Published by trigger at 10:19pm on Fri 19th December 2008.
This reply has been edited, last edit at 10:20pm on Fri 19th December 2008.

This is way off topic but is to do with weird shops being fronts for summat else.

In the mid-late 1980s I lived on Searle St. Pretty much opposite Cirillos (sp?) was a cooker shop. At least that's what it said on the board over the door. In four years, I never saw a single person enter or leave the shop or a delivery made. And I can tell you, I was no stranger to the twitching net curtain.

Once, when our grill pan needed replacing, I went in and inquired about getting a new one. Cue much sucking of teeth and pursing of lips. "Weeeeeeell, TECHNICALLY we could probably supply one but it'll be weeks before it'll arrive."

So what was that place all about? Is it still there?

Published by DeFrev at 10:03am on Sat 20th December 2008.

"Apocalypse Now" on the Coldham's Lane bridge has already been lost

This upsets me more than it should. It is no longer the Apocalypse Now Bridge. I loved the fact that the person who wrote it messed up and had to start again :)

Published by kirstym at 10:16am on Sat 20th December 2008.

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Published by kunoichi (not active) at 11:26am on Sat 20th December 2008.

Cheers, Kunoichi. I'd be willing to donate a bag of gold sovereigns* to anyone who actually bought a cooker from there.

* Terms and Conditions apply.

Published by DeFrev at 12:19pm on Sat 20th December 2008.

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Published by Janeyferr (not active) at 12:22pm on Sat 20th December 2008.

If you walk around the backstreets between Mill Road and Newmarket Road (and the other side of Mill Road too, for that matter) and look up at the first floors of the buildings, you'll step in dog eggs and trip up kerbs. However, there's also various interesting old signs that have almost faded away, remnants from long-closed shops and pubs. One building that interests me is on MacKenzie Road, leading to the back entrance of ARU. It looks remarkably like a typical West End pub - my guess is that is was a pub at some point, but nobody seems to remember.

Published by John Techno at 12:41pm on Sat 20th December 2008.

You know what? If the weather's nice tomorrow, I might just go out with my camera and take a few pics of these old places.

Published by John Techno at 12:42pm on Sat 20th December 2008.

Cheers, Kunoichi. I'd be willing to donate a bag of gold sovereigns* to anyone who actually bought a cooker from there.

* Terms and Conditions apply.
I bought a cooker from there about 14 years ago still have it.One of the guys who ran it I see him ometimes at coverband gigs.
Are the gold sovereigns chocolate ones lol.

Published by daggg at 12:48pm on Sat 20th December 2008.

A mention and pic of Top Tapes here - http://www.colc.co.uk/cambridge/gwydir/tour.htm There's another one further down the page - the shop appears to have stock in the windows, so it's quite an old photo.

Published by John Techno at 12:50pm on Sat 20th December 2008.
This reply has been edited, last edit at 12:52pm on Sat 20th December 2008.

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Published by kunoichi (not active) at 1:23pm on Sat 20th December 2008.

i have just seen this web site so
I was the manger at roll on tapes ltd
it started up on 9th December 1991 and my first customer on the Friday 13th 1991 at 4.30pm that day
the store closed on Saturday 4th may 2002
all the stock I had went to h gee on mill road
I only sold blank media only
and in 2000 I also did put your music on cd discs for £10.00 per disc
and the blank cd's would have about £5.00 each
I would record your lp onto dat or mini disc first and put in the tracks on the dat or mini disc and burn the whole mini disc or dat onto the cd disc using a pro cd music machine which cost at the time over £3000.00
I hope this helps you about roll on tapes ltd on gwydir street in cambridge

Published by ian-009 at 3:49pm on Fri 20th March 2015.

MiniDisc

Roll On Blank Tapes - Now and Forever!

Published by John Techno at 12:14am on Sat 21st March 2015.

I had to shut this shop down as the council put rates up and parking was hard to find a space without having to paying to park nearby.
it was a sad when I closed it down
I now work at Tesco's in Newmarket road in Cambridge
I work 25 hours there a week
I hope this help you if you need anymore information about roll on tapes please let me know my email is ian_arbery@yahoo.co.uk

Published by ian-009 at 2:53pm on Sun 22nd March 2015.

We had a FB discussion about Top Tapes just last week, your post was able to clarify when it closed, so thank you.

Do you still own the shop out of interest?

Published by Silent Rob at 4:59pm on Sun 22nd March 2015.

That's quite cool. 8 years on it feels like closure.

Published by JetSetWilly at 2:19pm on Mon 23rd March 2015.

in the early days of Radio 1's Essential Mix i bought all of my tapes there to record (sadly all nicked from a house in Arbury with my tape deck and amplifier), and some of my minidiscs for my first portable recorder. the slimline tdk 100 minute tapes were my favourite, Z1's or something

Published by foolscap (not active) at 3:53pm on Mon 23rd March 2015.

please can I have a 42.5 second loop tape and a spare box for a mini didi video cassette please.

Published by Priority 23 at 12:32pm on Tue 24th March 2015.

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