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Thread: History of the 8-track player!

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    History of the 8-track player!



    William Powell Lear, the man behind LearJet, was also the inventor of the 8-track cartridge tape system. During the early 1960s, a number of shell-encased continuous-loop audiotape systems coexisted. Lear's 8-track was by no means the first such system, in fact, the Lear cartridge is in most respects identical to the 4-track tape which came before it. The main mechanical difference between the two systems is that in a 4-track, the pinch roller is part of the player, whereas in an 8-track, the pinch roller is part of the tape cartridge.

    This refinement was probably intended to reduce tape tangling (and any tracker can tell you how well that works), as well as to help Lear secure a patent for his invention. Another difference between them is that 4-track divided the tape itself into four channels (tracks), comprising two stereo programs. This restricted the total playing time to something like 40 minutes, because of the limited length of tape which could be contained within a cartridge. Lear divided the tape into eight channels (tracks).

    While this doubled the potential playing time of the cartridge, it also created a new problem. Both systems involve a tape head which repositions itself along the width of the tape in order to change programs. This means that the slightest misalignment of the tape head (or for that matter of the tape itself within the cartridge) in an 8-track system means that you hear shadows of other tracks bleeding into the program which is playing. A 4-track, with its wider channels, is more forgiving of misalignment.

    While some of Lear's improvements over 4-track are a bit dubious, his real refinements were in the area of marketing. All 1966 Fords offered a factory installed in-dash 8-track player. In the 1967 model year, Chrysler and GM offered the same. By the late 1960s, several companies were making players for the other tape loop systems, including 4-track, but the only serious competition came from cassette tapes (which appeared at around the same time as 8-tracks) and the almighty vinyl records.

    Eight-track tapes were with us for quite a long time. 8-track was the preeminent portable and car audio format of the 1970s. Record clubs like Columbia House offered 8-track tapes well into the 1980s (Madonna's early albums, for example, as well as Michael Jackson's "Thriller," were offered to club members on 8-track). Although there are reports that brand-new tapes are still coming out of Nashville with truckers as the intended audience, these sightings have not been confirmed.

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    Re: History of the 8-track player!

    My roommate in college had an 8-track player. I still to this day anticipate the track change CHUNKKK in the middle of YYZ from the album Moving Pictures.

    Chip H.

    Former owner: 2012 Honda Civic LX, 2006 Honda Ridgeline RTL, 2000 Honda CR-V EX, 2003 MINI Cooper S, 1992 Honda Accord LX, 1999 Mercedes ML-320, 1995 VW Jetta GLX, 1991 Mercury Capri XR2, 1981 Mercury Zephyr, 1975 Chevrolet Impala

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    Re: History of the 8-track player!

    >>My roommate in college had an 8-track player. I still to this day anticipate the track change CHUNKKK in the middle of YYZ from the album Moving Pictures.<<

    I still have an OLDDDDDDDDDDDD cheap stereo set with a built in 8-track-- ya got any tapes???


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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: History of the 8-track player!

    Quote Originally Posted by chiph
    My roommate in college had an 8-track player. I still to this day anticipate the track change CHUNKKK in the middle of YYZ from the album Moving Pictures.

    Chip H.
    My Trans-Am has an 8-Track ... and I have a Kiss tape in the glovebox!

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    Re: History of the 8-track player!

    >>My Trans-Am has an 8-Track ... and I have a Kiss tape in the glovebox!<<

    And if you stuck it into the player, would it play?

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: History of the 8-track player!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Rose
    >>My Trans-Am has an 8-Track ... and I have a Kiss tape in the glovebox!<<

    And if you stuck it into the player, would it play?
    Not right now; on my Pontiac, the 8-Track is housed in the console - with the "main radio" in the dash. Years and years ago, I pulled the stock AM/FM stereo radio and installed a modern stereo. I have the original stereo - and it's been professionally rebuilt - but I just haven't gotten around to re-installling the thing...

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    Senior Member Mase's Avatar
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    Re: History of the 8-track player!

    My 1972 Toyota Celica had an 8-track, but it was a dealer-installed under-dash unit. It got ripped off before I could accumulate any tapes and I graduated quickly to cassette.
    A man's greatest mistake is to think he is working for somebody else.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: History of the 8-track player!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mase
    My 1972 Toyota Celica had an 8-track, but it was a dealer-installed under-dash unit. It got ripped off before I could accumulate any tapes and I graduated quickly to cassette.
    MIne's sort of like that (separate unit, built into the console). I will try to take a few pics today and post 'em so you an see what I'm talking about!

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    Re: History of the 8-track player!

    I used to own a Realistic (Radio Shack) player but the driving cable kept breaking and one day I couldn't find any replacements so I had to trash it. I used to record songs off the air and my 8-track library consisted of over 20 of them.Yep, 'Those Were The Days'.

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    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: History of the 8-track player!

    They never caught on in NZ although I saw a number of US import cars with them fitted when I workd for a Ford dealer in Christchurch.... Amazing to think that cassettes which followed have all but dissappeared too!

    We live in a changing world
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

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