National 8-Track Day!!!
The recent National 8-Track Day! What a flashback. . .
Happy National 8-Track Day ! ! !
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A Brief History:
Origination: The 8-Track tape/cartridge or “Stereo 8”,was a continuously paying “loop” tape measuring 4 x 5 1/4 x 3/4 inch in the US, but there were other international versions with lightly different 5-1/4x4x0.8 inch dimension. The media was created in 1964 by a consortium led by Bill Lear, of Lear Jet Corporation. The format was a very popular item for auto usage because of the ability to “plug” in the cartridge and do absolutely nothing other than listen because of the continuously playing method that the cartridge used in order to play music or other media. The tape only had so much room on it, so in order to make the tape work for the original standard 40 minutes of tape time, the cartridge would spin the whole for the duration of “track ” room. and the whole loop spun around one centrally located spring loaded spindle/spool, with tape leading through a series of capstan (torque ranged from 2-3-1/2 pounds depending on the logistics of the cartridge, based on specifications), type pincher wheels that kept the tape aligned and gave the ability to wind the tape forward through a system similar to “what is started, keeps on going” ability. The tape was spliced together with a magnetic metallic leader about a half inch long, when the area got to the tape head had the ability to mechanically change the set of track, a total of 4 sets of program tracks of complete stereo, hence “8-Track”.
The Flaw of Quality: The placement of the tracks being so separated for each other was one of its severe flaws in the quality of the 8-Track tape. The tape had 50 Hz to 12 KHz in range of sound, where FM has 15 Hz to 15 KHz. The human ear range of hearing is 20 Hz to 20 KHz. Here is the typical set up of the 8-Track Tape:
The tape’s actual width was 1/4 inch. Each actual track measured 0.021 inches. There were 7 “guard bands” (0.01075 inches) between the tracks, alongside the 2 edge bands (0.003375 inches). It left very little room for each of the eight tracks. By having different information recorded onto each track separated by that the latitude of the tape to render quality was low because of the bleed of leeching sound and overlap. Frequently I was able to hear other tracks on either of the left and/or right–even with a newly aligned head. Aligning heads was a frequent necessity with the 8-Track. The content of each tape in relation the the program consisted of:
- Program 1: Tracks 1 & 5
- Program 2: Tracks 2 & 6
- Program 3: Tracks 3 & 7
- Program 4: Tracks 4 & 8
As soon as the tape made it to the beginning magnetic splice, the head would manually and mechanically change to the next program, until program 4–where the tape completed. It automatically picked up again by completely restarting the tape with no human action required in doing so.
Popularity Inside Car Stereos: The option was one of the first media type widely used as an upgrade in addition to the traditional radio, predating even the widely used FM options. The 8-Track tape was highly popular from the mid 1960’s all the way into the early 1980’s, although cassetes took over towards the late 1970’s in popularity due to the compact cassette’s storability, and better quality bass capability (35 Hz to 12 KHz).
The Decline of the 8-Track: With the 8-Track having a peak year of 1978, the 8-Track had a steady decline afterwards, rolling completely downhill with complete phase out in retail by the year 1982, just a couple years before the commercial introduction of the CD, or the then “digital audio disk” (CDA format). Music mail-order clubs like Columbia House and RCA music Service (BMG) sold 8-Track tapes until the year 1988. Stores such as Tandy’s Radio Shack sold blank Realistic recordable 8-Track tapes until the year 1990.
The Only Slight Comeback of the 8-Track: The 8-Track had been re-introduced with special issue releases like a Cheap Trick release in 2009 and also a Dolly Parton’s A Holly Dolly Christmas in the year 2020, the latter with an exclusive bonus track. But in reality, the sound quality of an 8_Track is so lacking in standards of quality on a modern basis, that it never really made a great comeback. Also it is a truly mechanical system, requiring a lot of maintenance ,and truly lubricated tapes.
Celebrated: April 11th every year!
A Few Facts:
I am sharing final 8-Track trivia. . .
My Personal Favorite Collection of Hits on 8-Track: Do you have any favorites to think of? I remember the two disks Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” because it was so long, it would not fit on one cartridge. I also liked Pink Floyd “Dark Side of the Moon. I remember also, that the order that songs were put onto the 8-Track tape were oftentimes in a different order than on a vinyl record or a cassette, such as my complete favorite 8-Track of all time is without doubt Joe Walsh “The Smoker you Drink, The Player You Get”, even tough by virtue, I really do not believe if you drink a lot that you will play better! But the music is really on queue, released in a post-Vietnam era–right with all the period’s enthusiasm for great rock n’ roll!
People cherish those vintage memories of the 8-Track!
Let’s see where the 8-Track goes form here. . .
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National 8-Track Day