The 8-Track NightmareOctober 20, 2011
If you’re over 50 you most likely had, back in the late 60’s and 70’s, a tape case sitting in the back seat of your car filled with 8 Track Tapes. You remember those, the boxy looking, cheaply made, cheaply produced (but at album prices or higher) cartridges that were almost required to have. Even car companies spent a number of years of installing them from the factory.
The concept, originally known as Stereo 8, is a magnetic tape sound recording technology. The 8 Track was created by a consortium of Lear Jet, Ampex, Ford, General Motors and RCA. Ford started made them factory-installed starting in 1965 on three of their car models, Mustang, Lincoln, Thunderbird) and that same year RCA jumpstarted 8 Track production by releasing 175 8 Tracks from it’s RCA Victor catalogue.
After I started driving I of course bought an 8 Track player for every car I owned. The last, and best one, was made by Craig. I bought at Far East Audio in Wooster, OH. I can also remember installing 8 Track players in many, many cars owned by friends & acquaintances.
In short, even though I had probably amassed a collection of over 200 of them, they sucked. The production/audio quality was rank, the cartridges themselves were cheap and easily broken and how many of us drove around shoving matchbooks under the tape to make it play correctly? The movable head design was flawed as it was unable to maintain head alignment.
How many 8 Track tapes did you buy, unwrapped, put in your player, and it either wouldn’t play or squealed like a stuck pig? That many, huh? Me, too!
With cassettes taking over during the latter 70’s and then finally CDs appearing circa 1982, the 8 Track cartridge as a concept came to an end. Thankfully. Of course, millions of people had millions of 8 Tracks collecting dust as the conversion to cassettes and then CDs made them obsolete.
The last mainstream 8 Track cartridges were produced in 1988, in limited quantities, with Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits considered the last. However, in 2009 Cheap Trick released a limited edition version of their The Latest album.
And yes, I still have an 8 Track home player (at the end of the 70’s I had three of them) and a handful of 8 Track tapes stashed away.
Why? I have no idea!