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A little about the 4 track cartridge format. Starting in the 1920s, endless loop motion pictures were made for advertising or other purposes. With the appearance of reel-to-reel tape recorders in the late 1940s, several inventors adapted the endless loop idea for use with the new German-style plastic recording tapes. Of these inventors, William Powell Lear (of Lear Jet fame), purchased a California company in 1946 that had tried to market a steel wire loop recorder based on old Western Electric/A T & T Technology [from their 1933 "Hear Your Own Voice" endless loop recorders]. Bits of this technology made its way into his own design for several models of wire recorders in 1946, including an endless loop wire recorder. However, Lear dropped these projects and subsequently concentrated his efforts on aircraft.

At the time, the focus of endless loop technology shifted from wire to tape, again thanks to the new style recording tape. Bernard Cousino, a Toledo, Ohio, owner of an Audio Visual equipment and service company, became interested in endless sound recordings. Cousino won a small contract to build a "point of sale" device, a store display that played a recorded message over and over endlessly.

Cousino, was aware of the widespread use of short motion picture film loops for similar purposes, and began experimenting with an eight millimeter endless loop film cartridge marketed by Television Associates, Inc. of New Hampshire. Cousino soon developed a cartridge specifically adapted for audio tape that he marketed in 1952 through his company, Cousino Electronics, as the "audio vendor." The little cart could be used with an ordinary reel-to-reel player, (the cart fit over one reel spindle and the exposed loop of tape was fed through the heads). Later, Cousino would develop a more advanced two-track cartridge, the Echomatic, which, like the later 8 track, required a special player. In the meantime, another inventor named George Eash designed and patented a similar cartridge that came to be known as the Fidelipac. Following Cousino´s pattern, Eash designed and patented a cartridge with similar specifications, later modifying it to include a more complex reel braking mechanism.

By 1956, developement in Eash´s cartridge was the basis of dozens of commercial applications of the endless loop, two of which were particularly successful. Eash´s Fidelipac design became the basis of several new recorders adapted for radio station use, and by the early 1960s, many radio stations had put some or all of their music, spot announcements, and station i.d.´s on carts that could be quickly inserted and played and which could be automatically stopped at the beginning of the recording.

When Earl "Madman" Muntz, a former used car salesman, who was something of a local celebrity on the West Coast by opening a chain of television retail outlets selling TV sets that were manufactured by his other firm, Muntz Television, Inc., saw its commercial potential. He acquired rights to the format and began marketing both players and prerecorded tapes, licensing music from major labels. In the 4 track format, the pinch roller (the wheel that moves the tape along as it plays) was housed in the player. The 4 track cartridge had two programs - the tape played all the way around the loop, then switched, by way of a silver plated tape, to the second track and did the same thing all over again. In fact, the format took its name from the fact that two programs, each with two tracks of information (left and right channels of a stereo mix) equals four tracks. The two programs of the 4 track format were like the two sides of an LP, each holding roughly half the total program material.

8 tape The later development of the 8 track format took the basic 4 track technology and refined it, making changes designed to make the tape less likely to jam while playing, and to increase accessibility to individual selections on the tape.

Despite 4 track´s potential to deliver better sound quality, the 8 track format eventually dominated the market place, thanks in part to the Ford Motor Company. Ford agreed to offer the players as optional equipment on 1966 models. 65,000 of the players were installed that year alone. Those machines were initially manufactured by Ford´s electronics supplier: Motorola.

The physical similarity between 4 and 8 track cartridges permitted the development of converters that fit into the increasingly obsolete 4 track tapes and enabled them to be played in 8 track players.

Source: "You Really Got Me," copyright 1994 by Doug Hinman and Jason Brabazon - and from the pages of "8-Track Mind" by Malcolm Riviera (edited by Joe Stephens)


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