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 States from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, when the Compact Cassette format took over. William Powell Lear, the man behind Lear Jet, was also the inventor of the 8-track cartridge tape system.
During the early 1960s, several shell-encased continuous-loop audiotape systems coexisted. Lear’s 8-track was by no means the first such system, in fact, the Lear cartridge is in most respects identical to the 4-track tape which came before it. The main mechanical difference between the two systems is that in a 4-track, the pinch roller is part of the player, whereas in an 8-track, the pinch roller is part of the tape cartridge.
A little-known fact is how much automakers had to do with the creation and implementation of the 8-track tape and the Stereo 8 format. WHEN eight-track tapes hit the shelves in the latter part of the Sixties, it was a godsend. Suddenly, you could listen to your music collection in your car, or out-and-about with the new boom-boxes. There were even rumors it would completely replace the vinyl record.
Yet, just over a decade later, the humble cassette tape was able to drive 8-track tapes to extinction. Its heyday lasted from 1968-1975, and by 1980, the poor eight-track tape was in history’s dustbin, a sort-of laughable derelict from the seventies.