This Technology Was Ahead Of It’s Time!

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The Eight Track tape recording system was in vogue from 1965 to about 1977. While today it has become an icon of obsolescence, it was a great commercial success and paved the way for all sorts of innovations in portable listening. The eight track tape consisted of an endless loop of standard 1/4-inch magnetic tape, housed in a plastic cartridge.

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On the tape were eight parallel soundtracks, corresponding to four stereo programs. For many people old enough to have owned an eight track system, it is a technology associated with the automobile and in-car listening. Ironically, however, it was first developed not by the auto industry, but by a leading aircraft manufacturer: the Learjet Corporation. If you’re among the masses using a smartphone to listen to music on the go, you might scoff at the notion of toting around clunky eight-track tapes of your favorite songs. But before video killed the radio star or digital transformed the way we store songs, our music came from plastic cartridges you’d pop into a Stereo 8. And if you were lucky enough to have the factory-optional upgrade, you had one mounted on your car’s center console.

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At the time, records were great but they lacked the portability of an eight-track cassette. The eight-track tape was just one object, says Buck Burnett, who owns the Dallas-based Eight Track Museum, the world’s first institution of its kind.

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You shove it in, you pull it out, and it’s the exact size of your hand. Many claimed the sound faded out between songs or that you could hear a loud click while the song was playing, but, judging by Burnett’s success, the obsession never subsided.

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Here’s a quick look at the history of the anomalous eight-track:

1. Richard Kraus initially designed the eight-track technology while working under Bill Lear for his Lear Jet Corporation in 1963. The first Stereo 8 player was named the Lear Jet Stereo 8.

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2. Instead of sides, eight-tracks had four different programs.

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3. Country music tapes are the most common kind of eight-track.

 

4. The Beatles’ record label put out about 25 Beatles eight-tracks after the band broke up.

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5. The rarest eight-track is a Frank Sinatra album recorded with the Brazilian jazz musician Antnio Carlos Jobim, called Sinatra/Jobim. The reason why it’s so rare? Sinatra ordered all of the copies to be destroyed and only about five survived. It’s worth $5,000.

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Related: Total Rewind: The Life Of The CassetteThe Last Cassette Factory

OR do you prefer?…

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I love the good ol’ phonograph! Nothing is better than a vinyl. Do you agree? Share your comments in the section below.

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Did you know Peter Frampton’s “Frampton Comes Alive” was one of the biggest selling 8-track of all time? Let’s go back to one of his concerts…

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What was the first 8-track tape you owned? What tape did you play over and over? Share your comments!

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