Next we get to the much beleaguered 8 Track Cassette Player. This infamous technology entered the scene during the mid-60’s and survived until the late 70’s. Most of its infamy is well deserved. They were extremely high maintenance, requiring one to carry a variety of chemical cleaners, pencils, screw-drivers, tape, and other sundry gadgets just to keep the things working. They hissed, they “clunked” from track to track, and about once a day they would grind to a halt revealing a tangled mess of tape that had to be extricated and rewound. But, they had one glorious advantage… you could play them in your car! They were portable, although “portable” meant that if you wanted to carry your tape collection in your car you needed a small steamer trunk to do so.
One by-product of the advent of the 8 track cassette was the introduction of music clubs. Clubs that offered a naive teenager a whopping ten 8 tracks cassettes for only 99 cents. What a deal! The only small caveat was that you had to agree to buy ten more cassettes at the “regular” price over the next 2 years. So what! Still sounded like a great opportunity to a kid with limited funds. Of course the problem was that the ten cassettes you had to buy at regular price came from a very limited selection. Obscure bands with names similar to “Captain Ron and the Bail Jumpers” or “The Blue Moodys”. Most of us kids were eventually turned over to a collection agency…
Improved Cassette Technology (the last analog entry in the history of music players):
Compact Cassette Technology. What a relief. This next generation of music playback was an order of magnitude better than the 8 track cassette. You still had the occasional tape spaghetti phenomena but it was much easier to deal with. The compact cassettes were a fraction of the size of the 8 track, resulting in a game-changing ability to pack a ton of music into a relatively small space. Noise reduction technology had also advanced, thereby significantly improving the overall quality of the sound. Sadly, the “music clubs” continued their endeavors to entrap the unsuspecting youth but by this time I was much too sophisticated to fall for their trickery.
The Digital Revolution:
The Compact Disc made its first appearance sometime during the early 80’s. By the mid to late 80’s CD’s had already overtaken the compact cassette in terms of units and dollars. The ultimate in terms of player reliability, storage, and pristine clarity of signal. It was astonishing to listen to digital music for the first time. No other technology had been able to produce such crystalline quality. How many of us are still holding large quantities of CD’s despite the continued evolution of digital technology?