Thursday, October 28, 2010
Were Eight-Track Tapes a Joke?
I am pretty sure that some time in my past, I have come into contact with an actual 8-track stereo system from back in the sixties. But I can't remember it. No, my generation remembers the 8-track tape as a joke, as a metaphor for for all obsolete technology.
The competing system, that eventually won out over 8-track tapes, was the compact cassette format. They lasted into the 1990's.
Now you may notice another theme here, as part of the 8-track saga. It is the American 8-Track vs. the European Compact Cassette technology. Often, we here in North America assume American stuff is better, more advanced than European stuff, but I am not convinced at all. In so many cases, Europeans have machines that are better. I'm sure somebody could explain why, but I have no idea. But I know for sure that the 8-Track tapes were so bad that I wonder how anyone would think they could push them on an unsuspecting American consumer. Those must have been the days when it was thought that marketing muscle was all you needed, and that the actual technology could be utter crap, people would still buy them. Those days are over (I think).
Anyway, I'm getting off "track". My generation thinks of the 8-track tape as the joke. But I'm not sure my kids get the joke, as they sometimes get mixed up: 8-track or cassette, which one is the joke again? Both are pretty much obsolete, so to the next generation, both are funny. The actual joke was that 8-Tracks did not really work from day one, and the entire concept seems ludicrous in hindsight, while the Cassettes were far more functional and reliable. (and smaller, another European thing!)
I was thinking about this last week when I took a ride in my son's 1990 Audi Quattro. This car has a definite eighties "vibe" to it. The one thing my son was worried about when buying that car was not the age, nor the mileage, but the obsolete stereo system, which he quickly replaced with a modern one so that he could stick his MP3 player in and get some music. The generation gap is large for me, because my current car, a 2005, does not have any of this modern techno-wizardry. I still have more vinyl albums than CD's, Although my turntable has been on the fritz for over five years. Oddly, my son has a functioning turntable and vinyl CD's at home, but he considers them not as a basic music source, but as an art form, or a historical collector's item. The generation gap is so bad, that I don't even understand how he uses the twin vinyl DJ turntables, let alone the MP3 player. Several years ago he gave me an MP3 player for Father's day, and I have to confess I never figured out how to use it for music, but was happily suprised when he informed me it would also work as an 8 gig memory stick.
Just getting back to the Audi, I want to remark on something about his purchase, which involved trading in a two passenger Smart car for a five seater Quattro. I have always thought of two-passenger cars as "sports" cars, and four or more passenger cars as being "regular" cars, regardless of its horsepower, no matter how good handling. But this Audi Quattro, I would say comes about as close as you can be to a sports car while having more than two seats, and the Smart Car is about as far from being a sports car you can get, while still being a 2 seater. Here is a discussion on Jalopnik, on the topic of the 4-seater sports car. (and American sports cars vs. European)
Picture: This is the picture I took of the 1990 Audi in front of our house