Gadget history: The story of the 8-track tape

For the first several decades of car audio, the only option was the radio. There was a brief dalliance with an in-dash turntable in the 50s…

…but for many obvious reasons, it was stupid.

Then in the early 60s, a type of technology used radio station was adopted for use in cars. The first cartridges were four-track but those soon evolved into eight-track tapes. And it wasn’t long before they began to appear on the home stereo market.

Loudwire has this great look back on the era of the 8-track tape.

“Gather round youngsters! As the old(er) staffer at Loudwire, when we recently saw National 8-Track Tape Day coming up on the calendar, it sparked some moments of nostalgia for myself and a few head scratches from others. So today (April 11), in honor of the long lost music platform, it seemed like a good time to reflect and analyze what made the 8-track so great, so frustrating and such a key part of music history.”

What Is an 8-Track Tape Anyway?

“The 8-track tape was a cartridge containing a recorded spool of tape that would be pulled from the center of the reel, passed across the opening at one end of the cartridge and wound back onto the outside of the same reel. The tape was driven by the tension in the capstan and pinch roller and would turn at a constant rate to play the music that was recorded onto the tape.

“The Stereo 8 edition improved upon the initial 4-track StereoPak, typically allowing four programs of two tracks apiece. The Stereo 8 could switch between tracks automatically or by the user switching over, as seen below, but only a limited amount of time was available per each track.”

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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