I was born in 1987, a little too late for vinyl, way too late for 8-track tapes and still in the midst of cassettes. Remember how painstaking it was creating a mix CD, shuffling through songs, hitting pause so there could be a seamless transition, making sure the CD didn't skip and all that effort? True purpose goes into the craft: setting the mood, what the taper is putting out there to the tapee, choosing the right songs and what order they'll be in, the overall atmosphere... Mixtapes provide the soundtrack to any moment, big or small.

But with the shiny plastic veneer of the cassette now all but a faded relic, there's worry that the very culture itself is dead. In Matt Patches' piece for Hollywood.com in September 2012, he argues the internet has forever altered its personal aspect.

Using the example of Stephen Chbosky's acclaimed Perks of Being a Wallflower, he explains "Mixtapes weren't just a pop culture staple, they were symbolic. In the recent film version of Perks, the momentous occasion of a mixtape transaction is on full display. The memorable depiction unearths a sad possibility: like the cassette tapes they're burned into, mixtapes might be a thing of the past."

The exciting advent of CD burning and later piracy and torrents allowed for more: more songs, more atmosphere, more moods for longer. Especially when you had Windows Media Player on your Windows ME Edition desktop like I did, with all those wicked gyroscopic graphics playing during songs. Early 2000s teens never forget.

Streaming online also gives us music on the go without the illegalities, with Pandora, Rdio, 8tracks and Spotify taking over. You can try before you buy all without being labelled a dirty pirate draining cash from the very pockets of artists, a la South Park. There's also YouTube allowing users to drag and drop music videos, while iTunes allows you to build playlists from your own library.

However, in her piece for Forbes in December 2012, Michele Catalano, believes the technological takeover has removed the intimacy from the sacred 'ritual' of the mixtape.

"There's no love or passion involved in moving digital songs from one folder to another," she laments. "Those 'mixes' are just playlists held prison inside a device. There's no blood, sweat and tears involved in making them."

Both 8tracks and Spotify are favourites when it comes to making playlists. With over 24 million users in 56 countries and over 1.5 billion playlists created so far, Spotify prides itself on the social. Able to follow celebrities and mere mortals alike, you're able to share and browse through playlists while mixing and matching songs.

8tracks, meanwhile, is closer in style to the original mixtape process, allowing users to choose a title and description for their mix, tag moods and other keywords for context and even choose cover art. Launched 8/8/08, the Fuse Network-powered site emulates an old-school vibe over using slick algorithms. On their about page, 8tracks want to share your mixtape with the whole community: "Think radio in the 1970s, mixtapes in the 1980s, and DJ culture of the 1990s through today. DJs share their talent in taste making, providing exposure for artists. Listeners get a unique blend of word-of-mouth sharing and radio programming -- long the trusted means for music discovery -- on a global scale."

Finally operating as a 'normal business' in August 2011 after three years raising funds and contributors working equity only, 8tracks has grown successfully 11 times over with 26 million listeners amassed as of September 2013. Founder and CEO of 8tracks, David Porter, accounts 8tracks' success to its 'curation platform' model, where anyone can create a profile and periodic mixes, providing more diversity than any old mixtape could've done in the past.

"This (8tracks' curation platform) programming approach benefits listeners through deeper selections, more variety, less repetition, playlists organized in ways that transcend genre [including mood, activity and theme] and a human dimension, or soul, behind the music," he explains, via email. "From a business perspective, the model scales well as DJs on the service both create and promote the programming across every imaginable genre, from every country 'round the globe."

Once individualistic, the mixtape on the digital stage builds communities around sharing, with social media helping to facilitate the trend. None more so than on that bastion for hilarious gifs, slacktivism, fandom drama and teen angst, Tumblr, with countless blogs devoted to creating and sharing carefully-cultivated mixes using services like Spotify and 8tracks - including So I Made You a Mixtape, Twelve Rounds, Mixtape Mondays, Ellie's Wicked Wednesday Mixtape, Community Playlist, Mixtape Madness, I Speak In Tunes, The Comprehensive Mixtape Series and the adorable Mixtapes For My Girlfriend. Bloggers and fans alike have playlists for every mood, for inspiration and creativity, for rainy days, for sunny days, for Halloween, for Christmas, for happy, for sad, for road trips, for the lovesick, for the angry...

Co-creator of Tumblr blog The Mixtape Collective, Lauren, treats the mixtape process as cathartic. "I make playlists to express something I'm going through and post them in [the] hope that someone else can understand that exact feeling," she explains. "Finding that perfect mix of songs in a perfect order feels a lot like an art to me."

Other half of the Collective, Melody, meanwhile, believes it's the personal thought behind a mixtape that makes it special: "...It gives the person an ability to string together songs that reveal a certain emotion or show a central theme throughout the mix. My philosophy when it comes to making mixes is that there should be some sort of cohesiveness and when there's a mix that exudes a similar tone or emotion or theme throughout, then that's what makes it great," she says. "The point is not to just simply be a collection of random songs. If that was the case, putting your music device on shuffle should suffice. You don't do that, because sometimes you're just in a mood for a particular genre or artist. There is so much that can be seen of a person through what they select for their mixes [...] They're made by real people with real emotions and thoughts."

Mixtapes even promote the commitment to fandom, now extending to fictional characters and celebrities in the form of 'fanmixes.' Are John and Sherlock your OTP (one true pairing)? There's a mix for that. That one time Castiel and Dean (aka Destiel) exchanged those (alleged) longing looks at one another on Supernatural? Listen to this. As you can already guess, there are also plenty of mixes dedicated to dreamy squee-inducers One Direction, including one for Harry appreciating your smile and another made for when you're road trippin' in the middle of nowhere with Zayn.

As Gavia Baker-Whitelaw explains in her piece on the rise of fandom mixtape culture for The Daily Dot, 8tracks and Tumblr go hand-in-hand due to users' want for 'instant gratification' and accessibility. She says: "...You can start streaming at once, and don't have to worry about crappy old playlists clogging up your hard drive if you don't like them. And 8tracks' fashion for Photoshopped mixtape covers appeals to the visual nature of Tumblr fandom."

The popularity of the mixtape also taps into a sense of nostalgia for the new age, those who were either too young or weren't even born during the reign of the cassette. Sony, however, will no doubt take full advantage of this, recently announcing that they will soon release a tape capable of holding up to to a massive 185 terrabytes of data. With the 1980s and 1990s now considered vintage (or even 'soft grunge,' seriously...) by many of the Tumblr set, it makes most of us feel quite confused and ridiculously old to know Tamagotchis and NickToons have now achieved the same 'hip' status as vinyl and Polaroid.

The Mixtape Collective's Lauren, believes this can only be a good thing.

"I think it's really awesome that it's 'cool' to listen to Nirvana or The Smiths or even The Beatles simply because their music is good and it'd be a shame to see their talent lost in our generation," she says. "It gives me a lot of hope that at least a handful of people can see the beauty in 'vintage' music and still want to keep it alive."

Melody also notices the same want for nostalgia.

"The majority of our demographic are those who[are] as a lot of people would snicker and use the term, "hipsters" whom all typically share the love and respect for vintage and old things," she says. "They're the ones you'll find in sweaters that your grandpa might have, sifting through vinyls and having an appreciation for music that does not dominate music charts, such as your typical Top 40 tunes. As well, the music we compile in our mixes attracts those with similar tastes."

Naturally, The Mixtape Collective attracts mainly teenagers and college students, with Lauren explaining: '"his age range is great, though, because these are the ages people are growing up and finding themselves, and if we can play a part in that by developing their music taste, then our job is done."

8tracks' Porter believes it works in specific cycles.

"There's always it seems an attraction to aspects [like fashion, music, design] of earlier decades. I've heard people claim it's a 22-year cycle - in other words, the "cool" year/era is now 1991."

So what is mixtape culture anymore? It's not quite the comfort of the plastic casing it once was, but its digital reinvention is no substitute for some. For many, though, the experience lies in the emotion. The technique has changed drastically, but the hallmarks remain: shuffling through songs, what order they'll be in, making sure there's a seamless transition, setting the mood, the cover art... As long as someone's willing to keep it alive, the culture can still have a soundtrack.

Find more of my work on my blog, Tumblr and Wattpad. And 8tracks, of course.