13 Reasons Why is captivating binge-watchers around the world. The Netflix show — adapted from the 2007 young adult novel of the same name by Jay Asher — follows Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) after the suicide of his classmate Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford). Jensen anonymously receives 13 cassette tapes outlining the 13 reasons behind Hannah’s decision to end her life.
When translating the story from book to television, a handful of changes were made, including those relating to technology. A lot has changed from 2007 with regards to technology and how we use it: the first iPhone model launched in 2007, social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat did not exist, and cassette tapes are practically obsolete now.
Asher addressed evolving technology and how the show was tweaked in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. He explains that changing how rumours about Hannah spread was necessary — in the book it was spread verbally in a hallway whereas in the series it was a photo shared over smartphones.
“It’s one of the things where I wrote the book at the time that I wrote it,” he said. “If I were to write it today, it would be a little different. [In the show] ideas about Hannah that get spread around because of a photo, which wasn’t in the book because nobody had camera phones back then. It felt like this is the right way to spread this.”
But not all technical aspects were given a modern twist, as Hannah’s messages were still delivered to Clay in cassette tape form instead of something more up-to-date. Asher told EW the reason behind this decision.
“Even when the book came out it had somewhat of a retro feel because even ten years ago tapes were outdated,” he said. “They kind of wanted to keep as much as they could. Not make it super, super modern feeling, while giving it this old school feel, which they did in certain ways while also being very honest about how things are different now for teens.”
In the series, the use of cassette tapes was not as out of place as one would think, largely because the creative team of the show explained it with an appropriate plotline introduced in the first episode. Hannah's classmate Tony (Christian Navarro) has a thing for “old stuff” — he has a cassette player in his car — and is implied to be the source of inspiration for making her recordings on tape.