For other uses, see Cartridge (disambiguation).
This article is about the eight-track cartridge. For eight-track multitracking, see Multitrack recording.
Magnetic tape sound recording format
The 8-track tape (formally Stereo 8; commonly called eight-track cartridge, eight-track tape, and eight-track) is a magnetic-tape sound recording technology that was popular from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, when the compact cassette tape, which pre-dated the 8-track system, surpassed it in popularity for pre-recorded music. The format is obsolete and was relatively unknown outside the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Mexico, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Japan. The main advantage of the 8-track tape cartridge was that it did not have to be "flipped over" to play other tracks.
The Stereo 8 Cartridge was created in 1964 by a consortium led by Bill Lear, of Lear Jet Corporation, along with Ampex, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Motorola, and RCA Victor Records (RCA - Radio Corporation of America). It was a further development of the similar Stereo-Pak four-track cartridge, which had been introduced by pioneering businessman and engineer Earl "Madman" Muntz, who promoted and sold consumer electronics to the American public at the time. Lear had tried to create an endless-loop wire recorder in the 1940s but gave up in 1946, only to be re-inspired by Muntz's four-track design in 1963. Muntz's design had itself been adapted from the Fidelipac cartridge, which in turn had been developed by George Eash. A later quadraphonic version of the format, with four-channel sound, as opposed to earlier, more widely used stereo/two-channel sound, was announced by RCA in April 1970 and called first Quad-8 and later Q8.
The original format for magnetic tape sound reproduction was the reel-to-reel tape recorder, first available in the United States in the late 1940s, but too expensive and bulky to be practical for amateur home use until well into the 1950s. Loading a reel of tape onto the machine and threading it through the various guides and rollers proved daunting to some casual users — certainly, it was more difficult than putting an LP record on a record player and flicking a switch. Because, in the early years, each tape had to be dubbed from the master tape in real-time to maintain good sound quality, pre-recorded tapes were more expensive to manufacture, and costlier to buy, than vinyl records, which could be stamped far more quickly than their own playing time.
To eliminate the inconvenience of tape-threading, various manufacturers introduced cartridges that held the tape inside a metal or plastic housing, thereby eliminating handling. Most were intended only for low-fidelity voice recording in dictation machines. The first tape cartridge designed for general consumer use, including music reproduction, was the Sound Tape or Magazine Loading Tape Cartridge (RCA tape cartridge), introduced in 1958. Pre-recorded stereophonic music cartridges were available, and blank cartridges could be used to make recordings at home, but the format failed to gain popularity.
Development of tape cartridges
The endless loop tape cartridge was first designed in 1952 by Bernard Cousino around a single reel carrying a continuous loop of standard 1/4-inch, plastic, oxide-coated recording tape, running at 3.75 in (9.53 cm) per second. Program starts and stops were signaled by a one-inch-long metal foil that activated the track-change sensor.
Inventor George Eash invented a design in 1953, called the Fidelipac cartridge. The Eash cartridge was later licensed by manufacturers, notably the Collins Radio Company, which first introduced a cartridge system for broadcasting at the National Association of Broadcasters 1959 annual show. Fidelipac cartridges (nicknamed "carts" by DJs and radio engineers) were used by many radio stations for commercials, jingles, and other short items. Eash later formed the Fidelipac Corporation to manufacture and market tapes and recorders, as did several others, including Audio-Pak (Audio Devices Corp.).
There were several attempts to sell music systems for cars, beginning with the Chrysler Highway Hi-Fi of the late 1950s, which used discs. However, entrepreneur, marketer and television set dealer, Earl "Madman" Muntz, of Los Angeles, California, saw a potential in the "broadcast carts" for an automobile music system. In 1962, he introduced his Stereo-Pak four-track cartridge stereo system and tapes, mostly in California and Florida. The four tracks were divided into two "programs", typically corresponding to the two sides of an LP record, with each program comprising two tracks read simultaneously for stereo (two channel) sound playback. He licensed popular music albums from the major record companies and duplicated them on the four-track cartridges, or "CARtridges", as they were first advertised.
Introduction of Stereo 8
The Lear Jet Stereo 8 cartridge was designed by Richard Kraus while working for the Lear Jet Corporation, under Bill Lear, in 1963. The major change was to incorporate a neoprene rubber and nylon pinch roller into the cartridge itself, rather than to make the pinch roller a part of the tape player, reducing mechanical complexity. Lear also eliminated some of the internal parts of the Eash cartridge, such as the tape-tensioning mechanism and an interlock that prevented tape slippage. By doubling the number of tracks from 4 to 8, the length of any recording doubled to 80 minutes.
In 1964, Lear's aircraft company constructed 100 demonstration Stereo 8 players for distribution to executives at RCA and the auto companies.
The popularity of both four-track and eight-track cartridges grew from the booming automobile industry. In September 1965, the Ford Motor Company introduced factory-installed and dealer-installed eight-track tape players as an option on three of its 1966 models (the sporty Mustang, luxurious Thunderbird, and high-end Lincoln), and RCA Victor introduced 175 Stereo-8 Cartridges from its RCA Victor and RCA Camden labels of recording artists catalogs. By the 1967 model year, all of Ford's vehicles offered this tape player upgrade option. Most of the initial factory installations were separate players from the radio (such as shown in the image), but dashboard mounted 8-track units were offered in combination with an AM radio, as well as with AM/FM receivers. Muntz, and a few other manufacturers, also offered 4/8 or "12-track" players that were capable of playing cartridges of either format, 4-track or 8-track. With the backing of the U.S. automakers, the eight-track format quickly won out over the four-track format, with Muntz abandoning it completely by late 1970.
The 8-track format gained steadily in popularity because of its convenience and portability. Home players were introduced in 1966 that allowed consumers to share tapes between their homes and portable systems. By the late 1960s, the 8-track segment was the largest in the consumer electronics market and the popularity of 8-track systems for cars helped generate demand for home units. "Boombox" type portable players were also popular but eight-track player/recorders failed to gain wide popularity and few manufacturers offered them except for manufacturer Tandy Corporation (for its Radio Shack electronics stores). With the availability of cartridge systems for the home, consumers started thinking of eight-tracks as a viable alternative to 33 rpm album style vinyl records, not only as a convenience for the car. Also by the late 1960s, prerecorded releases on the 8-track tape format began to arrive within a month of the vinyl release. The 8-track format became by far the most popular and offered the largest music library of all the tape systems. Eight-track players were fitted as standard equipment in most Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars of the period for sale in Great Britain and worldwide. Optional 8-track players were available in many cars and trucks through the early 1980s.
Ampex, based in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, set up a European operation (Ampex Stereo Tapes) in London, England, in 1970 to promote 8-track product and musicassettes in Britain and Europe, but it struggled and folded in 1974.[verification needed] GRT Corporation, General Recorded Tape of Sunnyvale, California, was another large manufacturer which duplicated many tapes for smaller record labels; it went out of business in 1979.
Quadraphonic sound on eight-track cartridges was announced by RCA in April 1970. It employed four-channel receiver/amplifiers that balanced the sound via sliders or a joystick.
Ford was particularly eager to promote in-car quadraphonic players as a pricey option, being the only "Big Four" American automotive company to do so. The format enjoyed moderate success in the early 1970s but faded by mid-decade. Quadraphonic cartridges provided four channels of discrete sound, unlike matrixed formats such as SQ, which Columbia/CBS Records used for their quadraphonic sound vinyl records.
Early karaoke machines
Daisuke Inoue invented the first karaoke machine in 1971 called the Juke-8.
Nature and operation
An 8-track cartridge provides four pairs of stereo tracks, whereas the later quadraphonic cartridges had two sets of four tracks. The ends of the tape were spliced with a thin strip of metal that would trigger a solenoid that would cause the playback heads to automatically jump to the next set of channels. Both types of players also provided a button for manually changing channels. Due to the design of the endless loop tape, which fed from the reel in only one direction, there was no rewind control. Due to the mechanical stress on the tape, few machines offered a fast-forward control.
Quad 8 and Q8
The audio mixing process for four channel quadraphonic sound is different than for stereo versions of the same recording. Some producers opted for strong separation between channels and this was regularly used for popular music. Others chose a style in which there is only surround sound ambience or "echo" heard in the rear speakers. This type of sound, which can realistically reproduce a live concert hall experience, was commonly used for classical music. However, mixing engineers could also aim for more of a hybrid effect. In some situations sounds move in rotation around a three dimensional space. While rarely heard, the four channel effect can be quite spectacular. Quadraphonic recordings are often highly regarded and some quad 8-tracks have become highly collectible. Beginning in the 1990s many four channel recordings were reissued on modern digital formats such as Super Audio CD.
Milton Bradley's (MB) OMNI Entertainment System was an electronic quiz machine game first released in 1980, similar to Jeopardy! or later You Don't Know Jack video game series, using 8-track tapes for playback analog audio for questions, instructions and answers as well as digital signals in magnetic tape data storage on remaining tracks to load the right answer for counting the score. In 1978, the Mego Corporation launched the 2-XL toy robot, which utilized the tracks for determining right from wrong answers. In 1977, the Scottish company GR International released the Bandmaster Powerhouse, a drum machine that played back custom-made 8-track cartridges containing drum and percussion rhythms loops recorded with real instruments. These could be subjected to a degree of processing using the drum machine's controls, which included tempo and instrument balance.
Decline and demise
1978 was the peak year for 8-track sales in the United States, with sales declining quite rapidly from then on. Eight-track players became less common in homes and vehicles in the late 1970s. The compact cassette had arrived in 1963 and, by the late 1970s, the eight-track cartridges had greatly diminished in popularity. In some Latin American and European countries, the format was abandoned in the mid-1970s in favor of the smaller cassette tape, which was one-third the size.
In the U.S., eight-track cartridges were phased out of retail stores in late 1982 and early 1983. However, some titles were still available as eight-track tapes through Columbia House and RCA (BMG) Music Service Record Clubs until late 1988. Until 1990, Radio Shack (Tandy Corporation) continued to sell blank eight-track cartridges and players for home recording use under its Realistic brand.
The professional broadcast cart format survived for more than another decade, being used for jingles, advertisements, station identifications, and limited music content at most local radio stations, before being replaced by computer-generated sound in the 1990s. The format also continued in use for relatively short sound loops, in which a rapid start was more important than other criteria. The endless-loop tape concept continued to be used in newer cinema movie projectors, though their tape spool is actively rotated and not drawn by tension on the film. That technology is now being supplanted by digital cinema.
- ^TelePro Cartridge Patent Fails, Billboard vol. 79, No. 27, 8 July 1967 p. 3
- ^"What Are 8-Track Tapes?". wisegeek.com. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- ^ ab"Collector's Corner: The History of the Eight-Track Tape". Retrieved 22 January 2014.
- ^ ab"What Are 8-Track Tapes?". Retrieved 22 January 2014.
- ^"8-Tracking Around the World". www.8trackheaven.com.
- ^Wilford, John Noble (4 April 1971). "Bill Lear Thinks He'll Have the Last Laugh". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- ^"George Eash CARtridge inventor tells how it was born". Billboard. Vol. 78 no. 10. 3 March 1966. Retrieved 26 January 2013.
- ^https://www.ischool.utexas.edu/~cochinea/html-paper/a-crews-03-magnetic-media.html[dead link]
- ^"Vintage Audio Recording History". Videointerchange.com. 10 May 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- ^Despagni, Anthony J. (1976). "Some Help From Debussy For the Hassled Driver". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
- ^"RCA Fires 175-Title Burst with Release of Stereo 8 Cartridges". Billboard. Vol. 77 no. 39. 25 September 1965. p. 3. ISSN 0006-2510. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
- ^Mitchell, Larry G. (2000). AMC Muscle Cars. MBI Publishing. p. 73. ISBN . Retrieved 26 January 2013.
- ^Kussisto, Oscar P. (2 November 1968). "8-track market booms". Billboard. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
- ^Shatavsky, Sam (February 1969). "The best tape system for you". Popular Science. 194 (2): 126–129.
- ^Raftery, Brian (2008). Don't Stop Believin': How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life. Boston, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. ISBN .
- ^Mitsui, Tōru; Hosokawa, Shūhei (1998). Karaoke around the world: global technology, local singing. London ; New York: Routledge. pp. 29–42. ISBN .
- ^Techmoan: MB OMNI Entertainment System - The 1980s 8-Track games machine, YouTube, 6 August 2017
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It’s time to officially announce that we’ve switched manufacturing facilities in regard to the 8-tracks. While we believe the original manufacturer had good intentions, it became clear that the 8-tracks weren’t coming together as easily as we hoped. We felt that switching manufacturers was the right decision to make for our customers.
We’re really sorry about the way this project has gone. To everybody who bought the 8-tracks back in April, we’re feeling just as exasperated as you. We want these things to be in your hands just as much as you do.
The 8-track project was meant to be a fun “April Fools” gag that was supposed to put a smile on the faces of our customers as they opened a box to find that these 8-tracks actually did, in fact, become a reality. As the project ended up dragging on, we can understand why that happiness would have turned to confusion and mistrust.
We have good news, however. The 8-tracks will exist, and to ensure that each and every one of you rightfully gets the product that you paid for 5 months ago, we’ve given this project to a different manufacturer called Dead Media Tapes. Dead Media Tapes are a reputable company that has done hundreds of new 8-track releases, even going as far as doing thousands of copies of the official 8-track releases of the popular metal band Ghost. These people have a love of the craft of making 8-tracks, they work around the clock, and they know exactly what they’re doing. Follow their Facebook page to see them post updates about the 8-tracks as they’re being worked on.
We know there’s a lot of internet record labels out there that get a lot of flack for not delivering products on time. We strive to hit our shipment time frame goal with every release we do, and we unfortunately made a dreadful miscalculation on these. We apologize to our 8-track buyers, and we hope to earn your trust back.
We’re all used to the inexorable march of technology – you can’t blink without your smart phone being superseded by a newer model. But, to be fair, this has been the case ever since some entrepreneurial caveman held a press launch for his swanky new range of bronze tools, leaving the traditionalists grumbling that they’d be sticking with stone.
Technological innovation has its upside, of course. Once upon a time computers were the size of houses and had the processing power of a Tickle Me Elmo; now we carry them in our pockets and have the ability to watch funny animal videos whenever and wherever we want. Progress is a wonderful thing.
But what about those obsolete and abandoned technologies, like the VHS video tape, for instance? If you decide it’s time to upgrade your video version of – oh, let’s say “Bad Boys 2” – from VHS to Blu-Ray, that’s pretty straightforward. But what happens when your VHS tape is a copy of the 1990 Art Academy of Cincinnati graduation ceremony. You won’t find that on Amazon.
Rescuing data from obsolete audio and video formats, not to mention computer media, is a problem that archivists are facing worldwide. And it’s not just that the fact that the hardware to play back these formats is increasingly hard to find; in many cases, the tapes and disks themselves have a limited lifespan. For example, recordable CDs and DVDs are particularly prone to failure within a matter of years, and can’t be relied on for the long-term storage of important data.
In the archives here at the Art Museum, we have a fairly representative collection of storage media that are either already obsolete, such as 8-track audio cartridges and Betamax video tapes, or on the critically endangered list, e.g. VHS tapes and audio cassettes. How are we going about making sure that these often unique records of Museum history remain accessible for future generations?
Making a copy is the most important first step, whether that’s digitizing analog media or copying files from aging CDs, DVDs, floppy disks, etc. Sounds simple, right? Well, whilst it’s fairly easy to get hold of equipment to play back, say, VHS tapes or audio cassettes, or to read 3.25 inch floppy disks, it’s far harder to find players for Betamax video tapes, or to find a computer that can read 5 inch floppy disks. Even assuming you do find some way of reading those antiquated floppy disks, do you actually have software that will open the files you discover? And, of course, once you’ve successfully backed-up every last bit of data and digitized every video tape, where do you store all those gigabytes – or more likely terabytes – of data? Digital storage is getting cheaper, but it’s not that cheap.
Thankfully, most of us don’t have a media collection of such variety or extent to tackle, but if you do have video tapes of your child’s first steps or audio tapes of your ‘80s garage band you want to preserve, do it soon – these tapes won’t last forever. It’s relatively easy to do it yourself with a little technical know-how, but there are also many companies that will do it for you.
Finally, one additional piece of advice for anyone concerned about protecting their digital files, whether photos, videos, or the draft of your Pulitzer-winning novel – backup, backup, backup. Whether it’s to the cloud, to external hard-drives, or you even printing it all out, you can never have too many copies…just in case. You never know when a sippy cup of juice is going to be poured into your laptop by an over-excited toddler, or when you’ll inexplicably click Yes in response to the question “Are you sure you want to permanently delete these files?” when you clearly meant No – these are just examples, by the way, not actual things that have happened to me…honestly.
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Last Updated: Oct 15, 2021
Remember 8-Tracks? How the Switch From Physical Media to Streaming Changed Everything
Not to be all “kids today,” but… kids today will never know the thrill of listening to brand-new vinyl. Nor will they know the agony of trying to re-spool a cassette tape using a pencil.
If you grew up in the era before streaming, then you probably lived through multiple generations of media. Each one had its quirks, but now that streaming is the default way we consume music, movies, and television, I can’t help but miss those older media formats sometimes.
Not all progress is good. Some formats sacrificed quality in favor of cost or convenience. For example, a LaserDisc player hands-down provided better picture and sound than VHS and DVD.
Nowadays, most physical media has been phased out or limited to a small group of enthusiasts. Streaming has reshaped not only the way that we listen and watch but also the media itself. It’s easy not to notice how much things have changed, but when you stop to think about it, streaming has had a much bigger impact on our culture than most of us realize.
Oh my God. I thought that someone had already broken into us. I didn't know what to answer her after what I saw, the poem just stood rooted to the.
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I shuddered sharply in pain, even screamed. The muscles of my back and buttocks contracted from the sharp pain and I lifted my back a little involuntarily, but Rita, realizing that this was necessary. And that the job had not yet been done, pressed me to the bed with her left hand and completely constrained my movements, while not releasing teeth from the wound.