Falling Star: The cassette.
Pinnacle: The '80s, when Sony unveiled the Walkman. Sales peaked in '88 as fans bought up more than 450 million tapes.
Missteps: When the cassette wasn't looking, the pristine-sounding CD started to pick up steam. CDs have been outselling cassettes since 1992, leading one record-chain executive to sound the alarm. ''The cassette is on the verge of extinction,'' said Stan Goman, senior vice president of Tower Records, which may phase out tapes completely within two years. The cassette is ''approaching the fate of vinyl.''
Perceived problem: Advanced technology People may not be aerobicizing with CDs yet, but insiders believe it won't be long before folks start to buy tougher and tinier disc players that sound better than tape players.
Next move: Wait for a consumer rebellion. So far, other chains are pooh-poohing Goman's prediction. ''We don't have any intention of pulling cassettes, because the consumers are still buying 'em,'' says Arnie Bernstein of Musicland.
Advice: Contact the automotive industry. ''If someone could convince Japan and Detroit to make a CD player standard issue on every vehicle,'' says Blockbuster's senior vice president Gerald Weber, ''I guarantee you'd see the decline of the cassette a lot faster.''