Cassette Futurism

In works created in The '80s, The '90s, and occasionally The nills, the fashion, architechture, and technology will have a certain...aesthetic. Whether it be the loud, bright colors and geometric shapes, the tendency towards stark plainness, or the the lack of powerful computers and cell phones, it is clear that this is neither the Raygun Gothic of days past nor the Everything Is an iPod in the Future aesthetic that would follow, but a bridging point that contains elements of both styles.

Contrast Everything Is an iPod in the Future. Compare to Retraux, Retro Universe and Raygun Gothic.



Anime and Manga
  • Cowboy Bebop has a very 1970s aesthetic, including computer files that look like long-playing records, which is appropriate since it is set in the '70s- the 2070s.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion is a very high-tech setting, but most of Japan's economy, technology, and industry have been poured into NERV and the Evangelions. It's telling that Shinji's S-DAT mini-cassette player is easily his most sophisticated possession.

  • The store in Back to the Future Part II is an in-universe example.
  • The Fifth Element has a distinctive aesthetic that looks like a lot of '90s music videos. It's deliberately futuristic looking but also quite campy.
  • Johnny Mnemonic future fashions and aesthetics in the year 2021 are based on 1980s and early 1990s fashions (especially the bright colors and heavy makeup on characters in Ralfi's club). Fax machines and VCRs play a more crucial role in transferring information than the Internet, and the design of the Internet is based on conceptual designs of cyberspace and virtual reality, as popularized by William Gibson's Neuromancer.
  • A Clockwork Orange uses Brutalist architecture, which features stark, blocky and concrete shapes, to represent the future. Fashions are also very bizarre, with colorful wigs and bodysuits being fairly common. Alex plays music on a microcassette.
  • Strange Days is set Twenty Minutes into the Future, in a dystopian society that was only a few years away from the time of filming. The future aesthetic is mostly conveyed with loud, shiny clothing and punk stylings amongst the hip and degenerate crowd. Information is distributed by hand on discs, without any mention of the internet.

  • William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy features things as complex as human memories recorded on tape. Not to mention that three megabytes of hot RAM is apparently valuable enough to kill for.

Live-Action Television
  • Several skits on Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!:
    • Puppeteer and Cloudcuckoolander David Lied Hart holds a giant VHS cassette with a "VHS for sale" sign nearby.
    • Uncle Muscles show sketches feature 1980s and '90s icon "Weird Al" Yankovic, and feel like a warped version of a bad '80s cable access show. The "special effects" look like they were ripped right from old Genie analog editing consoles.
    • One sketch is made to look like an ad for a Midi file organizer.
    • One sketch is made to look like an ad for "The Innernette" (all contained on one CD!) and reeks of this trope. You have to see it to believe how deep into this trope it really is. (season 2 episode 8)
    • Its Spin-Off counts as well.
  • Babylon 5 featured lots of curved CRT screens disguised as flatscreens.
    • Many of the 90s Star Trek series did the same thing, with genuine flatscreen displays only becoming the norm for Enterprise (somewhat ironically, given that it's set chronologically before all the other Star Trek series). Your mileage may vary as to how much more successful they were than Babylon 5 at disguising them.
  • Space: Above and Beyond also had lots of CRT screens (not disguised) as well as CDs and other mid-nineties tech.
  • Max Headroom, the TV movie and subsequent series. Even though it's the Trope Namer for Twenty Minutes into the Future, there's no flat-screen digital HDTV, no internet, computer graphics have a distinctly pre-Windows appearance and TV shows are still recorded on tape.
  • In the Red Dwarf: Back to Earth miniseries, Kryten explains that the human race flirted with DVDs but reverted to VHS cassettes, because unlike a small thin disc, a big boxy cassette is virtually impossible to misplace.
    • Possibly a shout-out to the series two episode "Better Than Life", in which the crew are shown to use triangular cassette tapes for recording material.


Most music videos in the 90s and early 2000s incorporating futuristic settings dive head-first into this trope.

Tabletop Games
  • Myriad Song is designed with this aesthetic as a tribute to the classics. In universe it's stated that the Syndics only worked with analog electronics, no digital.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • Regular Show has a very '80s feel to it, despite being set in the present day. (One episode had the characters time travel to the actual 1980s.) All video graphics are 8-bit, the music is mostly Hair Metal, and some episodes ape early-MTV music video techniques.