Sometimes I wonder whatever became of my 8-track tapes.
I’ve wondered, but not enough to go search the closets at my mother’s house to see if they’re still there. The collection, prized by me through high school, but not all that impressive compared to others, was safely nestled in the padded, genuine simulated leather suitcase the last time I saw it.
Cruising in our cars, vans and pickups was my generation’s most important social activity; collecting the music of the day was probably second. The advent of eight-track tape decks that anyone with a drill, screwdriver and a roll of electrical tape could install allowed us to enjoy both simultaneously.
The eight-track sound wasn’t anywhere near as good as the same album on LP played on a good home system, but we added eight-track decks to those home systems too and collected tapes relentlessly whenever extra cash was accumulated.
For those who are a bit younger than yours truly and don’t remember eight-track tape cartridges, they worked erratically, with a loud clack between tracks (songs). Once the end of the tape was reached, it started over automatically in a loop.
A few of eight-tracks shortcomings included:
• Leaving a tape out inside the car in the sun and discovering it in a molten mess on the seat or dash.
• Having your tape deck devour your favorite (or brand new) tape. The ensuing operation to remove the tape without ruining the tape head involved a screwdriver or needlenose pliers to carefully pull the tape from the bowels of the machine.
• Track bleed over which could result in ZZ Top’s “Mexican Blackbird” coming out of the speakers at the same time that “Heard It on The X” was playing.
In my lifetime I remember driving a lot of vehicles that didn’t even have a radio and even more with just an AM radio, so putting up with the problems associated with eight-track wasn’t a big deal. We were living in the space age back then, and we could finally take our music with us. Little did I know where in-car entertainment would lead us over the next 30 years.
Today it’s not uncommon to have a teen pull up beside you in a compact car with a sound system that is literally vibrating the vehicle from the chassis on up with a bass that can cause ears within a half-block radius to bleed.
It’s not at all uncommon these days for a young man to own a car worth $1,500 in which he has installed $3,000 worth of audio equipment. Taking the tunes along is important, but getting to your destination is too, my friend.
These days the most important things for some people to get in their new vehicles is satellite radio and or DVD or satellite television. These items, along with touch-screen digital audio systems that synch with iPods, Bluetooth phones, video games and other devices can be controlled with buttons on the steering wheel or through voice-activation. The options boggle my mind, but it’s all good.
We’ve come a long way since the first tube radios were installed in automobiles in 1930. It’s hard to believe that technology could provide us with more, but history tells us it will.
Karl Terry writes for Freedom New Mexico. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org