8-Track - Monday, September 28, 2015

Last week, we began a discussion of technologies used to record and preserve sound since the beginning, back in the 19th century.  First was wax cylinders, then shellac and vinyl records. Today we are going to discuss the beloved (and hated) 8-track tape!  

The most important ingredient in the 8-track is magnetic tape.  That is where the music is stored. Right around the same time Edison and Berliner were developing cylinders, German scientists were experimenting with magnetic wire.  They moved on to magnetic tape for improved flexibility and quality, and by the 1930's Nazis used them to maintain their records, while they kept the technology secret.  Only after American military forces captured reels of magnetic tape filled with information left behind by the Nazis after the war did the technology get introduced as an alternative to records.  Early reel-to-reel players were big, complicated and expensive, so it was not until the 1950's that amateurs even had the opportunity to embrace them.

8-tracks are essentially miniature reel-to-reel players with the tape on an endless loop.  They were first designed in 1952 by a man named Bernard Cousino.  Their appeal for use in automobiles was immediately apparent, but it still took a decade before the first "Stereo-Pak" four-track player was introduced.  Another innovator, Bill Lear (more famous for the jet he named after himself), came up with the player that could contain eight tracks.  The first cars to have 8-track players installed in them were the 1966 Ford Mustang, Thunderbird and Lincoln. Home players also arrived that year, often in stereos that also had the more-popular turntable for vinyl records.  

The heyday of the 8-track player was the decade of the 1970's.  Another type of magnetic tape player would appear towards the end of the seventies, and retail stores stopped offering 8-tracks in 1982.  Many consider the band Fleetwood Mac 's 1988 greatest hits album the last ever produced in the format.  Join us tomorrow to learn about the next big thing....
QUESTION:  In which of the following countries was 8-track technology almost never used?
A)  Australia
B)  Austria
C)  Canada
D)  United States of America

EVERYBODY'S FAVORITE SCUMBAG.  On this day in 1943, James Thomas "J.T." Walsh was born in San Francisco, California.  Although he performed in college and off-Broadway theater, he really didn't hit the big screen until he was in his forties.  He made an impression playing quietly menacing or just plain unpleasant people in such films as Good Morning, Vietnam (1987), A Few Good Men (1992), and 1996's Slingblade.  He died in 1998 at the young age of 54, but he has left an impressive legacy behind him.

QUOTE:  I don't waste a minute. - Bill Lear

ANSWER:  B)  Austria.  Predominantly English-speaking countries used 8-tracks, for whatever reason.