8 Track Players
Long before the CD arrived on the scene, there were other ways that individuals were able to enjoy their 70s music in a portable manner.
The standard cassette tape, now pretty much a thing of the past, was one of those ways.
But engineers also invented another tape source, the 8 track player, which was first introduced in 1963 but didn’t develop mainstream popularity until the early 70s.
The 8 track tape was novel because it doubled the amount of programming on the tape by providing eight total tracks, usually comprising four programs of two tracks each.
However, most sound experts agreed that this somewhat diminished the quality of the sound.
Nevertheless, the blossoming automobile industry led to the increased popularity of the 8 track player as it began to be included in many car types, favored by auto builders such as Ford, which began offering it as an upgrade in the late 1960s.
Home 8 track players were also introduced in the late 1960s and they remained a top seller through the first several years of the 70s. They could be part of a regular stereo system or may have been found in the portable “boom box” version.
By 1970, when a standard vinyl record was released, a pre-recorded 8 track tape version would appear no more than a month later.
The record companies had begun to recognize the convenience of these self-contained cartridges and noted that many consumers were now choosing them over the vinyl record simply due to their size and portability.
Some car companies, usually the higher-end manufacturers, also began to promote pricey quadraphonic 8 track systems as an option.
Unfortunately, however, by the mid 70s, the cassette tape began to be developed into a much more worthy opponent and the popularity of 8 track players and tapes began to slip away.
Though at the beginning of the 70s the quality of the 8 track cartridge was much better than that of its tinier competitor, the fact that standard cassette players were smaller and much less complex to develop and manufacture meant that the cost was significantly lower as well, which was a major attraction for both consumers and auto companies.
Also, 8 track tape owners would note the tendency for the tape to jam when it got dirty and tape breakage became a problem as well, especially as the companies that manufactured the players began to use cheaper parts.
It wasn’t unusual for the player to “eat” the tape, creating frustration and more expense for the owner.
Also, the temperature extremes inside an automobile tended to create concerns as well. This unreliability was the first reason for the decline of the 8-track tape.
In addition, record companies found that perhaps they were now producing the same music in too many different formats, and because the smaller cassette was, by this time, offering a better high-quality sound, the 8 track was eventually phased out.
Few were left on the shelves by 1981-1982, with compact disks – introduced in 1983 – right on their heels.
Today, those 8 track cartridges that were produced during the last few years tend to be highly collectible as a limited number of each was released.