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|Media type||Magnetic tape endless loop|
|Encoding||Stereo analog signal|
|Capacity||Four stereo channels|
|Read mechanism||Tape head|
|Write mechanism||Magnetic recording head|
|Developed by||Lear Industries|
|Extended from||Fidelipac / Mohawk cartridge|
The 8-track tape (formally Stereo 8; commonly known as the eight-track cartridge, eight-track tape, or simply eight-track) is a magnetic tape sound-recording technology that was popular in the United Statesfrom the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, when the Compact Cassette format took over. The format is regarded as an obsolete technology, and was relatively unknown outside the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, West Germany, Italy and Japan.
The Stereo 8 Cartridge was created in 1964 by a consortium led by Bill Lear of Lear Jet Corporation,along with Ampex, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, Motorola, and RCA Victor Records (RCA - Radio Corporation of America). It was a further development of the similar Stereo-Pak four-track cartridge introduced by Earl "Madman" Muntz (marketing and television set dealer), which was adapted by Muntz from the Fidelipac cartridge developed by George Eash. A later quadraphonic (four-channel sound as opposed to earlier more widely used stereo/two channel sound) cartridge version of the format was announced by RCA in April 1970 and first known as Quad-8, then later changed to just Q8.
The original format for magnetic tape sound reproduction was the reel-to-reel tape recorder, first available in the United States in the late 1940s, but too expensive and bulky to be practical for amateur home use until well into the 1950s. Loading a reel of tape onto the machine and threading it through the various guides and rollers proved daunting to some casual users—certainly, it was more difficult than putting a vinyl record on a record player and flicking a switch. Because in early years each tape had to be dubbed from the master tape in real-time to maintain good sound quality, prerecorded tapes were more expensive to manufacture, and costlier to buy, than vinyl records which could be stamped much more quickly than their own playing time.
To eliminate the nuisance of tape-threading, various manufacturers introduced cartridges that held the tape inside a metal or plastic housing to eliminate handling. Most were intended only for low-fidelity voice recording in dictation machines. The first tape cartridge designed for general consumer use, including music reproduction, was the Sound Tape or Magazine Loading Tape Cartridge (RCA tape cartridge), introduced in 1958 by RCA. Prerecorded stereophonic music cartridges were available, and blank cartridges could be used to make recordings at home, but the format failed to gain popularity.
The endless loop tape cartridge was first designed in 1952 by Bernard Cousino around a single reel carrying a continuous loop of standard 1/4-inch, plastic, oxide-coated recording tape running at 3.75 in (9.53 cm) per second. Program starts and stops were signaled by a one-inch-long metal foil that activates the track-change sensor. (Bill Lear had tried to create an endless-loop wire recorder in the 1940s, but gave up in 1946. He would be inspired by Earl Muntz's four-track design in 1963.)
Inventor George Eash invented a cartridge design in 1953, called the Fidelipac cartridge.The Eash cartridge was later licensed by manufacturers, notably the Collins Radio Company, which first introduced a cartridge system for broadcasting at the National Association of Broadcasters 1959 annual show. Fidelipac cartridges (nicknamed "carts" by DJs and radio engineers) were used by many radio stations for commercials, jingles, and other short items. Eash later formed Fidelipac Corporation to manufacture and market tapes and recorders, as did several others, including Audio-Pak (Audio Devices Corp.).
There were several attempts to sell music systems for cars, beginning with the Chrysler Highway Hi-Fi of the late 1950s (which used discs). Entrepreneur, marketer and television set dealer Earl "Madman" Muntz of Los Angeles, California, however, saw a potential in these "broadcast carts" for an automobile music system. In 1962, he introduced his Stereo-Pak four-track cartridge stereo system and tapes, mostly in California and Florida. The four tracks were divided into two "programs", typically corresponding to the two sides of an LP record, with each program comprising two tracks read simultaneously for stereo (two channel) sound playback. He licensed popular music albums from the major record companies and duplicated them on these four-track cartridges, or "CARtridges", as they were first advertised.
The Lear Jet Stereo 8 track cartridge was designed by Richard Kraus while working under Bill Lear and for his Lear Jet Corporation in 1963. The major change was to incorporate a neoprene rubber and nylon pinch roller into the cartridge itself, rather than to make the pinch roller a part of the tape player, reducing mechanical complexity. Lear also eliminated some of the internal parts of the Eash cartridge, such as the tape-tensioning mechanism and an interlock that prevented tape slippage. By doubling the number of tracks from 4 to 8,the recording length doubled to 80 minutes.
In 1964, Lear's aircraft company constructed 100 demonstration Stereo 8 players for distribution to executives at RCA and the auto companies.
The popularity of both four-track and eight-track cartridges grew from the booming automobile industry.In September 1965, the Ford Motor Company introduced factory-installed and dealer-installed eight-track tape players as an option on three of its 1966 models (the sporty Mustang, luxurious Thunderbird, and high-end Lincoln), and RCA Victor introduced 175 Stereo-8 Cartridges from its RCA Victor and RCA Camden labels of recording artists catalogs. By the 1967 model year, all of Ford's vehicles offered this tape player upgrade option. Most of the initial factory installations were separate players from the radio (such as shown in the image), but dashboard mounted 8-track units were offered in combination with an AM radio, as well as with AM/FM receivers. Muntz, and a few other manufacturers, also offered 4/8 or "12-track" players that were capable of playing cartridges of either format, 4-track or 8-track. With the backing of the U.S. automakers, the eight-track format quickly won out over the four-track format, with Muntz abandoning it completely by late 1970.
The 8-track format gained steadily in popularity because of its convenience and portability. Home players were introduced in 1966 that allowed consumers to share tapes between their homes and portable systems. By the late 1960s, the 8-track segment was the largest in the consumer electronics market and the popularity of 8-track systems for cars helped generate demand for home units."Boombox" type portable players were also popular but eight-track player/recorders failed to gain wide popularity and few manufacturers offered them except for manufacturer Tandy Corporation (for its Radio Shack electronics stores). With the availability of cartridge systems for the home, consumers started thinking of eight-tracks as a viable alternative to 33 rpm album style vinyl records, not only as a convenience for the car. Also by the late 1960s, prerecorded releases on the 8-track tape format began to arrive within a month of the vinyl release. The 8-track format became by far the most popular and offered the largest music library of all the tape systems. Eight-track players were fitted as standard equipment in most Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars of the period for sale in Great Britain and worldwide. Optional 8-track players were available in many cars and trucks through the early 1980s.
Ampex, based in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, set up a European operation (Ampex Stereo Tapes) in London, England, in 1970 to promote 8-track product and musicassettes[ clarification needed ] in Britain and Europe, but it struggled and folded in 1974.[ verification needed ] GRT Corporation, General Recorded Tape of Sunnyvale, California, was another large manufacturer which duplicated many tapes for smaller record labels; it went out of business in 1979.
Quadraphonic sound on eight-track cartridges was announced by RCA in April 1970. It employed four-channel receiver/amplifiers that balanced the sound via sliders or a joystick.
Ford was particularly eager to promote in-car quadraphonic players as a pricey option, being the only "Big Four" American automotive company to do so.[ citation needed ] The format enjoyed moderate success in the early 1970s but faded by mid-decade. Quadraphonic cartridges provided four channels of discrete sound, unlike matrixed formats such as SQ, which Columbia/CBS Records used for their quadraphonic sound vinyl records.[ citation needed ]
Daisuke Inoue invented the first karaoke machine in 1971 called the Juke-8.
An 8-track cartridge provides four pairs of stereo tracks, whereas the later quadraphonic cartridges had two sets of four tracks. The ends of the tape were spliced with a thin strip of metal that would trigger a solenoid that would cause the playback heads to automatically jump to the next set of channels. Both types of players also provided a button for manually changing channels. Due to the design of the endless loop tape, which fed from the reel in only one direction, there was no rewind control. Due to the mechanical stress on the tape, few machines offered a fast-forward control.
The mixing process for producing quadraphonic media varied between titles. As was the case with many early stereo recordings, some producers opted for a hard separation between channels, such as an individual instrument or vocal being assigned to only one track of the four, while other producers chose to mix in content from the other channels to create more of a balance. A few producers created mixes in which the four output channels would pan in sequence through the four source channels to create a rotating sensation. The rarely-heard effect was spectacular, but as there was no technology to produce this automatically, it would require two mixing engineers who, with practice, could coordinate their efforts to create the effect. Due to this challenge, few songs were created with this effect.
Milton Bradley's (MB) OMNI Entertainment System was an electronic quiz machine game first released in 1980, similar to Jeopardy! or later You Don't Know Jack video game series, using 8-track tapes for playback analog audio for questions, instructions and answers as well as digital signals in magnetic tape data storage on remaining tracks to load the right answer for counting the score. In 1978, the Mego Corporation launched the 2-XL toy robot, which was similar.
Eight-track players became less common in homes and vehicles in the late 1970s. The compact cassette arrived in 1963,and by the late 1970s the eight-track cartridges had greatly diminished in popularity. In some Latin American countries as well as European, the format was abandoned in the mid-1970s in favor of the smaller cassette tape which was one-third the size.
In the U.S., eight-track cartridges were phased out of retail stores by late 1982. Some titles were still available as eight-track tapes through Columbia House and RCA (BMG) Music Service Record Clubs until late 1988. M Radio Shack (Tandy Corporation) continued to sell blank eight-track cartridges for home recording use under its Realistic brand until 1990.
The professional broadcast cart format survived for more than another decade for jingles, advertisements, station identifications, and limited music content at most local radio stations, before being replaced by computer-generated sound in the 1990s. It persisted for relatively short sound loops where starting from the beginning was more important than other criteria. The endless loop tape concept continued to be used in newer movie projectors, though their tape spool is actively rotated and not drawn by tension on the film. That technology is now being supplanted by digital cinema.
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In the Cousino, Eash, Muntz, and Lear cartridges, tape was pulled from the center of the reel, passed across the opening at one end of the cartridge and wound back onto the outside of the same reel. The spool itself was freewheeling and the tape was driven only by tension from the capstan and pinch roller.
With a reel turning at a constant rate, the tape around the hub has a lower linear velocity than the tape at the outside of the reel, so the tape layers must slip past each other as they approach the center. The tape was coated with a slippery backing material, usually graphite and patented by Bernard Cousino, to ease the continuous slip between the tape layers. While the design allowed simple, cheap, and mobile players, unlike a two-reel system, it did not permit rewinding of the tape. Some players offered fast-forward by speeding up the motor while cutting off the audio.
Muntz's cartridge had used two pairs of stereo tracks in the same configuration as then-current "quarter track" reel-to-reel tapes. This format was intended to parallel his source material, which was usually a single LP (long playing) record with two sides. Program switching was achieved by physically moving the head up and down mechanically by a lever. The Stereo 8 version doubled the amount of programming on the tape by providing eight total tracks, usually comprising four programs of two tracks each. Lear touted this as a great improvement, because much more music could be held inside a standard cartridge housing, but in practice this resulted in a slight loss of sound quality and an increase in background noise from the narrower tape tracks. Unlike the Stereo-Pak, the Stereo 8 could switch between tracks automatically, with the use of a small length of conductive foil at the splice joint on the tape, which would cause the player to change tracks as it passed the head assembly.
The cartridges have an audible pause due to the presence of a length of metallic foil, which a sensor detects and signals the end of the tape and acts as a splice for the loop. The foil passes across a pair of electrical contacts which are in the tape path. Contact of the foil closes an electrical circuit that engages a solenoid which mechanically shifts the tape head over to the next track.
Most players produced a mechanical click when switching programs, although early Lear players switched silently. Because of the expense of producing tape heads capable of reading eight tracks, most eight-track players have heads that read just two tracks. Switching from program to program is accomplished by moving the head itself. Since the alignment of the head to the tape is crucial to any tape system, and because eight-track systems were generally designed to be cheap, this configuration further degraded the sound of the eight-track tape.
The Stereo 8 system was fairly simple, mechanically, but presented difficulties in various primary areas:
When the sliding tape pack would pull itself tight, for whatever reason, a jammed 8-track cartridge was the result. A quick solution was to hold the cartridge in one hand, facing down, while pulling out a section of, about 4-6' in length from the outer winding side. A quick tug on the tape would cause it to immediately wind in and the result was a loosened up tape pack that would play correctly.
Failing that, another solution was to open the cartridge, cut the tape at the splice, and relieve the excess tension by manually unwinding one or two sections from the outer edge of tape (loop length) while keeping the reel stationary, then re-splicing the tape, with a fresh piece of foil. Another, simpler fix was to shake the cassette in the plane of the tape reel with a rotary motion, sometimes this would cause the windings inside to rotate and loosen. If the cartridge has shed its graphite backing, it would have to be discarded. Small businesses that specialize in transferring audio tapes to digital format can remove the tape from the surrounding plastic cartridge box and play it on a small reel-to-reel player to extract maximum sound fidelity.
A decrease in the quality of the parts used in the eight-track cartridge, that is, plastic pinch rollers, lubricant quality and quantity, etc., was another blow to the faltering format. As these problems further reduced the reliability, sound quality, and consistent tape speed, the eight-track eventually developed a reputation for being unreliable.
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The Stereo 8 introduced the problem of dividing up the programming intended for a two-sided LP record into four programs. Often this resulted in songs being split into two parts (the split was often made during an instrumental break or a repeated chorus), song orders being reshuffled, shorter songs being repeated, and songs separated by long passages of silence. Some eight-tracks included extra musical content to fill in time such as a piano solo on Lou Reed's Berlin , extra verses on The Rolling Stones' Some Girls and a guitar solo in Pink Floyd's Animals .
In rare instances, an eight-track was able to be arranged exactly like the record album version, without any song breaks. Examples of this are Quadrophenia by The Who, and some versions of Days of Future Passed by The Moody Blues. Other examples of this rarity are Freeways by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Live - Bursting Out by Jethro Tull, Live Bullet and Nine Tonight by Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, Caught Live + 5 by The Moody Blues, The Concert in Central Park by Simon & Garfunkel, Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs by Derek and The Dominoes, Octave by The Moody Blues, the US version of Three Sides Live by Genesis, Pictures at Eleven by Robert Plant and Coda by Led Zeppelin (a record club only release).
A cassette deck is a type of tape machine for playing and recording audio cassettes. The consumer electronics industry formerly used the term deck to distinguish them from a tape recorder, the "deck" being part of a stereo component system, while a "tape recorder" was more portable and usually had a self-contained power amplifier.
Quadraphonic sound – equivalent to what is now called 4.0 surround sound – uses four channels in which speakers are positioned at the four corners of the listening space, reproducing signals that are independent of one another. Quadraphonic audio was the earliest consumer product in surround sound and thousands of quadraphonic recordings were made during the 1970s.
Monaural or monophonic sound reproduction is sound intended to be heard as if it were emanating from one position. This contrasts with stereophonic sound or stereo, which uses two separate audio channels to reproduce sound from two microphones on the right and left side, which is reproduced with two separate loudspeakers to give a sense of the direction of sound sources. In mono, only one loudspeaker is necessary, but, when played through multiple loudspeakers or headphones, identical signals are fed to each speaker, resulting in the perception of one-channel sound "imaging" in one sonic space between the speakers. Monaural recordings, like stereo ones, typically use multiple microphones fed into multiple channels on a recording console, but each channel is "panned" to the center. In the final stage, the various center-panned signal paths are usually mixed down to two identical tracks, which, because they are identical, are perceived upon playback as representing a single unified signal at a single place in the soundstage. In some cases, multitrack sources are mixed to a one-track tape, thus becoming one signal. In the mastering stage, particularly in the days of mono records, the one- or two-track mono master tape was then transferred to a one-track lathe intended to be used in the pressing of a monophonic record. Today, however, monaural recordings are usually mastered to be played on stereo and multi-track formats, yet retain their center-panned mono soundstage characteristics.
A video tape recorder (VTR) is a tape recorder designed to record and playback video and audio material on magnetic tape. The early VTRs were open-reel devices which record on individual reels of 2-inch-wide tape. They were used in television studios, serving as a replacement for motion picture film stock and making recording for television applications cheaper and quicker. Beginning in 1963, videotape machines made instant replay during televised sporting events possible. Improved formats, in which the tape was contained inside a videocassette, were introduced around 1969; the machines which play them are called videocassette recorders.
Earl William "Madman" Muntz was an American businessman and engineer who sold and promoted cars and consumer electronics in the United States from the 1930s until his death in 1987. He was a pioneer in television commercials with his oddball "Madman" persona – an alter ego who generated publicity with his unusual costumes, stunts, and outrageous claims. Muntz also pioneered car stereos by creating the Muntz Stereo-Pak, better known as the 4-track cartridge, a predecessor to the 8-track cartridge developed by Lear Industries.
Broadcast automation incorporates the use of broadcast programming technology to automate broadcasting operations. Used either at a broadcast network, radio station or a television station, it can run a facility in the absence of a human operator. They can also run in a "live assist" mode when there are on-air personnel present at the master control, television studio or control room.
The Muntz Stereo-Pak, commonly known as the 4-track cartridge, is a magnetic tape sound recording cartridge technology. The in-car tape player that played the Stereo-Pak cartridges was called the Autostereo, but it was generally marketed under the common Stereo-Pak trade name.
PlayTape is a 1⁄8 inch (3.2 mm) audiotape format and mono or stereo playback system introduced in 1966 by Frank Stanton. It is a two-track system, and was launched to compete with existing 4-track cartridge technology. The cartridges play anywhere from eight to 24 minutes, and are continuous. Because of its portability, PlayTape was an almost instant success, and over 3,000 artists had published in this format by 1968. White cases usually meant about eight songs were on the tape.
Sound recording and reproduction is an electrical, mechanical, electronic, or digital inscription and re-creation of sound waves, such as spoken voice, singing, instrumental music, or sound effects. The two main classes of sound recording technology are analog recording and digital recording.
The Fidelipac, commonly known as a "NAB cartridge" or simply "cart", is a magnetic tape sound recording format, used for radio broadcasting for playback of material over the air such as radio commercials, jingles, station identifications, and music. Fidelipac is the official name of this industry standard audio tape cartridge. It was developed in 1954 by inventor George Eash, and commercially introduced in 1959 by Collins Radio at the 1959 NAB Convention. The cartridge was often used at radio stations until the late 1990s, when such formats as MiniDisc and computerized broadcast automation predominated.
The IBM System/360, released in 1964, introduced what is now generally known as 9 track tape. The ½ inch (12.7 mm) wide magnetic tape media and reels are the same size as the earlier IBM 7 track format it replaced, but the new format has eight data tracks and one parity track for a total of nine parallel tracks. Data is stored as 8-bit characters, spanning the full width of the tape. Various recording methods were employed during its lifetime as tape speed and data density increased, including PE, GCR and NRZI. Tapes came in various sizes up to 3,600 feet (1,100 m) in length.
The RCA tape cartridge is a magnetic tape audio format that was designed to offer stereo quarter-inch reel-to-reel tape recording quality in a convenient format for the consumer market. It was introduced in 1958, following four years of development. This timing coincided with the launch of the stereophonic phonograph record. It was introduced to the market by RCA in 1958.
The Best of The Doors is a compilation album by the American rock band the Doors, released in August 1973 on Elektra Records. It was the third compilation album to be released by the band.
A videocassette recorder (VCR) or video recorder is an electromechanical device that records analog audio and analog video from broadcast television or other source on a removable, magnetic tape videocassette, and can play back the recording. Use of a VCR to record a television program to play back at a more convenient time is commonly referred to as timeshifting. VCRs can also play back prerecorded tapes. In the 1980s and 1990s, prerecorded videotapes were widely available for purchase and rental, and blank tapes were sold to make recordings.
Compatible Discrete 4, also known as Quadradisc or CD-4 was as a discrete four-channel quadraphonic system for phonograph records. The system was created by JVC and RCA in 1971 and introduced in May 1972. Many recordings using this technology were released on LP during the 1970s.
Bernard August Cousino was a music technology inventor. He is known for inventing an endless loop tape cartridge design in 1952, known as the Audio Vendor, patented under US2804401A. The tape is pulled from the inside of a loose tape roll making it spin to wind the returning tape onto the roll again. Initially, this mechanism was mounted on a reel to reel tape recorder. Later Cousino developed a plastic housing to be hung up on some tape recorders. First, the magnetic coating was wound to the inside of the reel. This cartridge was marketed by John Herbert Orr as the Orrtronic Tapette. Newer cartridges had magnetic coating wind of the tape outside the reel, which required a special recorder to operate it, but offers comfortable simple inserting the cartridge without threading the tape. This more compact cartridges do not require any bottom spare for the tape head assembly. That would inspire George Eash to make the Fidelipac tape cartridge, which itself would inspire the Stereo-Pak tape cartridge.
Sabamobil was a magnetic tape audio cartridge format made by SABA that came to the market in 1964. It used already-available four-track ¼ inch tape on 3-inch reels (7.62 cm), with two mono channels per side, using a tape speed of 3¾ ips (9.5 cm/s), and was compatible with reel-to-reel audio tape recording except the against remove secured ends of the tape in the reel. The cartridge could be opened without the need of any tools by removing two holding clamps. Tape head and capstan were placed between the reels.
Sanyo Micro Pack 35 and rebadged devices Channel Master 6546 and Westinghouse H29R1 are portable magnetic audio tape recording devices, developed by Sanyo in 1964, using a special tape cartridge format with tape reels atop each other.
George H. Eash was an American inventor of several magnetic tape audio cartridges having a single tape reel. In 1950s he worked next desk to Bernard Cousino, who invented the endless tape loop, using it at first on an open reel. Eash created further cartridges using this tape loop like the Fidelipac, also known as "NAB-Cartridge" or even "cart" and used in broadcast, and as a consultant of Earl "Madman" Muntz the 4-Track cartridge, known as the Muntz Stereo-Pak or CARtridge. With the Lear 8-Track cartridge Eashs patent plea failed.
An endless tape cartridge is a tape cartridge or cassette that contains magnetic audio tape that can be played in an endless loop, without the need to rewind to repeat.
While immensely popular in the United States for a period of time...
Just as the signs were all pointing to eight-track toppling vinyl as the format of choice for music lovers in the United States, Canada and to a lesser extent, in Great Britain, along came the audio cassette
Outside of the United Kingdom, Canada, and a few other nations, the use of 8-track technology was virtually unknown.
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