Like nearly every other aspect of life, technological advances have made certain music media fall to the wayside.
Vinyl was replaced by cassette tapes, which were replaced by CDs. Then, the digital age came along. Because vinyl record albums offer superior sound to 8 tracks and cassettes, there are still avid collectors, and every generation seems to give rise to new fans. The same can’t be said for the 8 track tape and cassette tape, although some folks still love one or both.
It may be hard to understand the appeal of the 8 track tape today, but back in the 1960s, the only option for music in most cars was tinny-sounding AM radio. In the early 1960s, the 8 track player was introduced primarily as a dashboard music system for the booming car market. When Ford Motors agreed to offer the 8 track player as a standard option on all models released in 1966, this media’s popularity soared. Soon, models for the home were introduced, and by the late 1960s, sales of 8 tracks rivaled vinyl. One of the biggest perks was portability, but something even smaller was just around the corner.
In the early 1960s, Lou Ottens was head of product development for the Dutch-based technology company Philips. He developed the first cassette tape as an alternative to clunky and expensive reel-to-reel tapes. The decision to license the invention for free led to mass production in Germany.
In 1965, cassette tapes were prerecorded with music and hit the mainstream in the U.S. the following year. The development of the Sony Walkman cassette tape player revolutionized listening to music on the go. Cassettes have retained some cult status because they’re affordable and hold many personal memories. They enjoyed a renaissance in 2011, and more recently, singers including Lady Gaga, Ozzy Osbourne, and Selena Gomez found success selling them.
Introduced by Philips in 1967, mini-cassette tapes (also called microcassettes) were intended primarily for dictation machines, then later in answering machines and micro tape recorders. Although still available for sale, mini cassettes have become nearly obsolete due to digital technology.
Initially, 8 tracks were marketed for listening to prerecorded music, while cassettes were meant for home recording. Cassettes are smaller at 4 x 2 ½ x ½ inch vs. 5 ½ x 4 x ¾ inch 8 tracks. Typically, 8-track tapes divide a two-sided LP into four programs (one on each side), which means a song might be cut in two if not split properly. You can skip or fast-forward different songs by choosing the program you want to listen to. Most cassettes feature an A-side and B-side, just like vinyl recordings.
Most 8 tracks and cassettes can be purchased at thrift stores, record stores, and online sources for less than a buck to $10 for rare ones. Of course, there are exceptions – a 1966 8 track of A Hard Day’s Night by The Beatles sold for $157 in 2003. You might be able to find working boomboxes at thrift stores or garage sales for $5 to $10. Although generally inexpensive, 8 track players are scarcer; therefore finding one in working condition might require perseverance.
If you have a stack of old audio tapes from yesteryear, the best option is to convert them to MP3 files. You can digitize cassette tapes yourself if you have a USB cassette converter or send them to Heartland Box and let us handle them with TLC. You’ll be listening to your favorite tunes in no time and can share them like other digital files wherever you wish without worrying about obsolete equipment.
Comments will be approved before showing up.