Since the alphabet is the building block of our language, the Powet Alphabet is the building block of what makes us geeks.

The debut of the Transformers toy line in 1984 featured many different toys that were originally from several different toy lines in Japan (Diaclone, Micro Change). Soundwave, a robot that transformed into a micro-cassette recorder, was among the first figures in the Transformers line. Unlike most of the other Transformers in that first wave, Soundwave had a gimmick that went above and beyond just being able to transform and back. He was able to fit other Transformers that took the form of micro-cassettes in his chest.

This was a really well received gimmick and more Transformer micro-cassette figures would be released over the years that could fit in Soundwave and his Autobot counter-part Blaster. The truly unique aspect of these cassette Transformers was not so much in the fact that they could fit in the chest of another Transformer, but rather the variety and range of things, into which, these cassettes were able to transform all from the very same small form factor.

Taking a look at just the first wave, we got two robots (Rumble & Frenzy), two condors (Laserbeak & Buzzsaw), and a panther (Ravage).

When the movie came out in 1986, Laserbeak would be swapped out for Ratbat. I could go on at length about Ratbat, but I already have. Ratbat came with Frenzy. Now Frenzy and Laserbeak always had silver weapons. In Frenzy and Ratbat’s assortment, gold weapons were shipped, but not entirely. Some shipments included silver weapons for the pair. This accounts for the gold weapons being somewhat more rare because of Frenzy’s longevity on the market as the only figure from the original wave still on sale by 1987.

1986 would also bring us our first Autobot cassettes taking the forms of two robots (Rewind and Eject), a rhino (Ramhorn), and a lion (Steeljaw).

1987 brought us Decepticon reinforcements in the form of a T-Rex (Overkill) and a Stegosaurus (Slugfest), followed by a gorilla (BeastBox) and a hawk (Squawktalk) in 1988 that could combine to form a robot (SquawkBox).

Autobot forces would be supplemented to match with a tank (Grandslam) and a fighter/surveillance plane (Raindance), who could combine to form a robot (SlamDance) as well.

Traditionally, thats about where most Americans’ knowledge of cassettes end. The end, it was not, however. In the Japanese only Headmasters series, four final cassettes were released. All Autobots. All dinosaurs.

In the photo below, from left to right, we have Gurafi (graphy), Noizu (noise), Diaru (dial), and Zaur (saur).

Gurafi and Noizu could combine to form Decibel, while Diaru and Zaur could form Legout.

In the image below, Legout is shown on the left, while Decibel is on the right.

These four cassettes are by far the rarest of any of the cassettes. Derrick Wyatt (art director for Transformers Animated) made an animation model for Zaur for Transformers Animated, where he would make a brief on-screen cameo in the episode “This is why I hate machines”.

While these would be the last new molds, the cassette transformers would live on in the form of reissues and repaints right up to today. Some of the repaints over the years include:

Cobalt Sentry Set featuring Garboil (repainted Laserbeak) and Howlback (repainted Ravage).

The Cassetron Set from the KissPlayers line. This set featured Sundor (repainted Laserbeak), Glit, (repainted Ravage), and Rosanna (repainted Eject).

Lastly, and I’m sure not finally, we have Flip Sides. A female autobot with an interesting bio, she was packed exclusively with the E-Hobby Exclusive release of Twincast (redeco of Blaster).

Both Sundor and FlipSides appeared in Derrick Wyatt’s now near-famous April Fools’ image, alongside the above Animated portrayal of Zaur.

While the concept of cassettes has become outdated and no longer relevant to today’s youth, the ‘partner’ concept to larger robots has been attempted many times by Hasbro ever since to try and replicate the original play value of those original toys. While they have had varying levels of success, I think they are missing the component that really pushed it over the edge; the fact that all these various characters and ‘bot’ modes came from the same alt mode and same form factor. I always thought Cybertron Soundwave came closest to recapturing that concept with laserbeak, which was followed by an amazing custom of a Steeljaw. Had more of those canisters followed transforming into other alt modes, I would have gladly picked them up.

Were you a fan of the cassette concept/characters? Tell us what you think in the comments!

Images From: TFWiki.Net,, and Botch The Crab’s Box Art Archive (Fantastic Site!)
Info on dinocassettes from TF-1.