Today Is National 8-Track Tape Day!
Really, saying it's National 8-Track Tape Day is like declaring a National Leaded Gasoline Day. I mean, at this point, does anyone even have a working 8-track player? ok, that is a rhetorical question, because I bet a ton of you still do. What kind of running condition they might be in is another story.
But still, at one time, these oblong, magical music cartridges were considered a state-of-the-art pieces of audio technology. By that time, vinyl records had been around forever, and the world was ready for some new technology. Reel to reel players had met with some enthusiasm, but weren't really convenient, and users sometimes had a hard time dealing with threading the tape through all the heads on the machine.
So, according to WIkipedia, in 1964 a group of corporations got together to share technology and come up with a more user-friendly solution to this growing need. Ampex, the Learjet Company, the Ford Motor Company, GM, Motorola, and RCA/Victor Records all worked together in this new venture.
To help jump start things, Ford began putting them into the Mustang, Thunderbird, and the Lincoln. RCA/Victor stepped in and produced 150 titles on 8-track that consumers could choose from. By 1967, Ford starting offering 8-track players as an option in all their vehicles, with major success.
More uses came into being as well, because the cassettes were so much more portable than ton of records. In fact, they were the audio source for the original karaoke machines being built in the early 70's.
But, over time, the compact cassette simply just took over. I had a couple 8-tracks when I was a kid, but my regular tape collection simply grew out of control. By the early 80's music was hardly being released on 8-track at all, and by 1988, they just stopped producing them all together. Fleetwood Mac holds the distinguished honor of being the last mass-produced 8-track release for their Greatest Hits collection.
Some indie artists still put out music on 8-track, but I imagine it's more of a marketing gimmick than anything else. I have friends that have pressed cassettes, and even mini-discs just to do something different to create some extra buzz. And some people still try to sell them online. I wrote a piece a couple months back about some folks in the Belfast area trying to unload some 150+ 8-tracks on Facebook Marketplace.
People will always want to find the coolest new way to listen to music. Who knows what that format is gonna be next. Especially in this age of almost all music being consumes digitally to the point where even CD's are becoming obsolete. Maybe we should just cut out the all the hoo-ha, and just start calling CD's the rich man's 8-track tape.