8-track cartridges

Those 8-track cartridges were great in the car: the endless loop made for a long playback time, and you didn’t have to worry about turning the tape over while driving.

Car manufacturers loved them and started fitting tape players as standard in the 1970s.

Not surprising that the manufacturers were so keen, as the technology they replaced — vinyl record players in your car — was awash with its own challenges: keeping the needle actually on the record was just one of them. Try turning the record over while you hurtle down the M1.

The cartridges were still magnetic tapes, though. They suffered from jamming and you couldn’t rewind them. Also, given the physical limitations of the tape, songs sometimes had to be split in two.

In the 1970s, the compact cassette format had improved in sound quality and durability and put paid to the 8-track.

(As we all know, however, the cassette tape’s season of glory was also short lived; it danced through the 1980s but then the CD arrived and beat it to death.)

Some might view the rise and fall of the 8-track as just one more example of the natural rise and gradual obsolescence of audio formats. Others may just see it as just one more attempt by the music industry to keep making us buy all of our music all over again.


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