History Of 8-Track Tapes

This page is intended to be an encyclopedic resource about the history of 8 track tapes.   We’re not going to rewrite the amazing history of this media, because so many others have done it already.   Instead, we’re going to walk you through a narrative history of 8-track tapes with links to the experts who have documented the history.  Follow along with us. 

The 1960s Early days

8-track tapes were invented by William Powell Lear in the early 1960s.  His famous Lear name is behind the LearJet 8-tack cartridge type, which is recognized as an engineering wonder among the early 8-track cartridge types.  Read more about the early days of 8-track tapes at 8-Track Heaven.


The motivator originally behind the invention of 8-track tapes was the automobile industry’s desire to equp cars with a means to play music besides AM and (later) FM radio.   The introduction of players into cars during the 1960s, and the 8-track tapes that went with them, was an epiphany in the evolution of the 8-track format.    The best resource on the internet about the intersection of 8-track tapes and automobiles is the Auto 8-Track Shack.

The 1970s

The decade of the 1970s was the peak of 8-track tape adoption among the buying public.  Venture into any record store in the 1970s, and you would find a large selection of vinyl records alongside of their 8-track counterparts.  But by this time, smaller cassette tape cartridges had begun to take over the market for automobile players and home use.  The smaller cousins of 8-track tapes took up less room and were becoming more widely adopted. 

The 1980s

By 1982, the record labels had stopped releasing new 8-track tapes to the record stores as cassette tapes had won the day.   For six years after, 8-track tapes were still released to record clubs like Columbia Records, but you had to be a record club member to buy them.  For this reason, 8-track tapes from the 1980s often command a premium today among collectors.  The last 8-track tape released by a major record label to the public was Fleetwood Mac’s Greatest Hits album in 1988.  

The 1990s to Present Day

Despite the major record labels pulling out of 8-track tapes in 1988, smaller record labels and production companies have continued to produce them to this day.   For a current survey of recent 8-track tape releases, go here [future page]

[This page is a work in progress]