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Portable Eight-Track Players

Panasonic Plunger, world's coolest portableWe had some great radio in the late 60's-early 70's. If you lived near the middle of the US, you got WLS at night, the greatest rock and roll station in history, IMHO. But daytime was another matter.

The FCC directed WLS to throttle its power way back in the daytime. In my small town, FM was in the future. AM was country music. An honorable genre loved by its fans, it was hated by me.

That left one alternative: the portable eight-track player.

In this day and age of hundreds of hours of music that fits in a player small enough to clip to your belt, eight-track tapes seem prehistoric. But they were cool to own circa 1971. Sure, they faded in and out between switching tracks (creating some unique memories of songs that now don't quite sound right without it!) and were prone to breaking after many playings, but we still loved them.

Hundreds of thousands of portable players were sold so we could take our music with us wherever we went. Like the tapes themselves, they were of great mass. Big enough to run on four or more D-cell batteries, call them alpha-version iPods.

The coolest ever designed was the pictured Panasonic Plunger. Switching tracks was like blowing something up! Does that rock, or what?

Of course, portability meant not only toting a player. You also had a suitcase full of tapes to listen to. That meant somebody else had to carry the cooler and towels to the beach.

Eight-track tapes still have their fans, and some bands are even releasing new music in the venerable format! For everything you ever wanted to know about the plastic containers of music, visit http://www.8trackheaven.com/. Thanks to them for the Plunger photo!

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