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 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.
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]