View Full Version : A format that never was...


Wigwam Jones
08-21-2012, 09:54 AM
And never will be. However, if it looks familiar, it should. The concept of a tape enclosed by a cartridge in order to make consumer use easier has been around a long time - this effort dates to 1958.

http://books.google.com/books?id=YtsDAAAAMBAJ&lpg=PA222&ots=K-XkbOD8oI&dq=%22stereo%20tape%22&pg=PA145#v=onepage&q=%22stereo%20tape%22&f=false

http://books.google.com/books?id=YtsDAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA145&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U1ptt5Bi9nKIU_0leVSlj0tqie2PQ&w=685

Celt
08-21-2012, 09:57 AM
Yeah, I remember those. Had one of the cartridges at one point.

Brian
08-21-2012, 10:03 AM
Elcassette, short lived format that was the industry's attempt to combat the effects of the cassette revolution on the tape and record industry.

Great idea that would have been successful if introduced a decade earlier.

vinyldavid
08-21-2012, 10:06 AM
I've got one of those! And about 10 cartridges. Pretty cool units.

Wigwam Jones
08-21-2012, 10:55 AM
Elcassette, short lived format that was the industry's attempt to combat the effects of the cassette revolution on the tape and record industry.

Great idea that would have been successful if introduced a decade earlier.

Actually, this is not Elcassette, and it predates it by several decades. Still didn't work. It was not until the compact cassette was introduced that the cartridge or packaged 'reel-to-reel' format finally took off.

KentTeffeteller
08-21-2012, 11:10 AM
This system pictured was the RCA Cartridge. RCA and Bell made recorders. Bel Canto and RCA made pre-recorded tapes, RCA and 3M made blank tape cartridges available. Didn't catch on. Elcasette was developed in the early 1970's to be a higher quality alternative to open reel. Cassettes were not fully mid fi until the 1971 Advent 201 and it's followers.

mhardy6647
08-21-2012, 11:42 AM
We had one of those RCA cartridge recorders (the stereo version!) when I was a lad. I might still have one of the cartridges buried somewhere in the rubble.

Brian
08-21-2012, 12:34 PM
Sorry, I was referring to the concept. The Elcassette was not the original conmcept of a packaged reel to reel tape cartridge system but a revival of the concept.

The Advent was not the first hi-fi quality cassette but was the first to make it popular to the masses. Advent had the player only, model 200 from memory. The Wollensak that had pretty much withdrawn to the educational, industrial, commercial and audio-visual markets came out with its stereo recorders for those markets and had released the version the Advent was based on to the home audio market almost a year before. We were marketing them coupled with the mono auto units based on the Philips portable and then its stereo version.

When he cassette was 1st introduced as a dictation format, I remember my old man asking if a stereo version was coming and at the time, the rep said it would never be successful as a stereo audio source b/c records and reel to reel was so much better. I guess he had forsighjt as when shown the first IBM small computer, long before the pc, he told them they would sell it to every company only if it had off the shelfware. They poo-pooed him. He went to a company in NH called Saunders to promote the idea but got the same response.

uxwbill
08-21-2012, 12:39 PM
Somewhere, I think there is a video on Youtube demonstrating this system in use, and all the different models that RCA intended to produce. They really sold the convenience aspect of the system. I believe the ad dated from 1958.

1tumbleweed
08-21-2012, 01:01 PM
There's another format that briefly existed that's been almost entirely forgotten. Revere (the cheap side of Wollensak) had a cartridge system in the mid-60s that used a single reel in a casing, with a tab attached to the end of the tape which, when inserted in the machine, pulled the tape out and threaded and played automatically. It was even a changer, with up to 20 cartridges stacked up to play one after the other. It was called the Revere M-2, and it appeared in the 1965 Lafayette catalog. I remember seeing prototypes at a hifi show about that time, but its presence in the Lafayette catalog would seem to indicate it actually came to market. There were even prerecorded cartridges available for it. Only $399.00!

I would imagine the almost-concurrent appearance of 4 and 8 tracks, and cassettes, doomed this complicated system.

KentTeffeteller
08-21-2012, 01:18 PM
But with that Revere cartridge system, there was one innovation made for it which did become common, it was the launch of 3M low noise/high output tape. Which improved cassette and slow speed open reel quality. 8 track was in reality, the first commercially successful tape cartridge made and cassette shortly afterward. The Advent 200 player was first, but had many issues with the Nakamichi built transport's high failure rate. The 201 was a success and made from 1971-1978. And was more successful than the Wollensak versions in the hi-fi market.

Wigwam Jones
08-21-2012, 01:27 PM
Somewhere, I think there is a video on Youtube demonstrating this system in use, and all the different models that RCA intended to produce. They really sold the convenience aspect of the system. I believe the ad dated from 1958.

I found this...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE0-dLPKcvk

Sam Cogley
08-21-2012, 01:34 PM
I've got one of those! And about 10 cartridges. Pretty cool units.

That would be the one I found in an estate sale in Aurora, MO. :thmbsp:

Somewhere, I think there is a video on Youtube demonstrating this system in use, and all the different models that RCA intended to produce. They really sold the convenience aspect of the system. I believe the ad dated from 1958.

RCA didn't "intend" to produce anything. The system actually was in production from 1958-61, and tapes were made for a few more years.

Roving Sign
08-21-2012, 01:35 PM
Got one, they are the same head pattern as reel to reel - there were stereo models.

I think they main drawback is they only ran at 3 3/4 ips - so, perhaps somewhat hi-fi, but easily outclassed by reel, in both sonics and in runtime.

You can spool the old cassettes on to reels for playback.

JonL
08-21-2012, 01:41 PM
I happen to have one of the Bell units in the trunk of my car right now. Was cleaning out the garage at my "marital residence" which has been sold. I didn't even know I had this thing, it's been sitting there at least 15 years. It has a speed change knob, IIRC it does play at 7.5 as well as 3 3/4. I'll look later...

Sam Cogley
08-21-2012, 01:43 PM
And several companies made empty shells for the system that could be loaded from open-reel tape pancakes.

Far from being a format that "never was," this setup had a brief moment in the sun before fading away. Mr. Jones, you should run some AK Google searches. There are a few detailed threads about the very real existence of the RCA Stereotape Cartridge, including one I started about the recorder now owned by VinylDavid.

Sandy G
08-21-2012, 01:49 PM
I remember being forced to use these, or their double first cousins, in a Language Lab in either college or hiskule...I don't remember much about them, except that they had OK fidelity for voice work, & looked like they'd been WELL used...This was in the mid-seventies.

Wigwam Jones
08-21-2012, 01:55 PM
Mr. Jones, you should run some AK Google searches. There are a few detailed threads about the very real existence of the RCA Stereotape Cartridge, including one I started about the recorder now owned by VinylDavid.

I meant it in a lighthearted way, but in honesty, there was no significant commercial success. Along the lines of the Elcasette, perhaps. Yes, they existed commercially. You could buy them. But not many, and not for long. It's a fascinating part of audio history.

reeltoreel68
08-24-2012, 06:24 AM
Had the chance to buy one at a garage sale in the mid 80's . never did. Should have. Those units could also use regular 3" reel to reel tapes as well

cableguy2
08-24-2012, 06:42 AM
Pretty sure I will just keep playing with my 5 ten inch decks and not worry about a format that didn't make it. I used to laugh at 8 track, who wanted to be listening to a song and have it change in the middle of it. How stupid was that.

oldvinyldude
08-24-2012, 01:05 PM
I saw this item listed on CL about 9 months ago. Will probably never see another. It was tempting to drive 5-6 hours to get it, but I let it go.

I had read up on the RCA cartridge, and seen an RCA created video demonstrating it-very cool. Seeing it made the term "Compact Cassette" logo which appeared on many early cassette units, make sense.

I believe a link for the video is:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE0-dLPKcvk

And a thread where I posted the photos of the listing:

http://www.audiokarma.org/forums/showthread.php?t=441153

captaingamez
08-24-2012, 01:18 PM
I've seen these too, always wanted to hear one of these things, but never had the chance. I saw one of those tape shells at a goodwill a few months back, shoulda bought it.

Phototone
08-24-2012, 01:26 PM
There was also a Sears Silvertone version of this early tape cartridge machine.

geartech
08-24-2012, 04:00 PM
This site is interesting for seeing some of the history of recording, the different technologies invented, etc:

http://www.videointerchange.com/audio_history.htm

oldvinyldude
08-29-2012, 02:56 PM
This site is interesting for seeing some of the history of recording, the different technologies invented, etc:

http://www.videointerchange.com/audio_history.htm
Thanks geartech-that is one of the best sites I have come across, to educate me on the various recording devices that have been used over the last 100 years. Even though most were not of interest to high fidelity audio fans, the existance of so many formats and devices for other uses, is fascinating. +1:thmbsp:

Dwartz
09-05-2012, 10:46 PM
I have a large box of the pre-recorded tapes, unopened, iirc. I have a couple RCA and Bell machines. Seems to me that one of those companies called them "snap cartridges."

KentTeffeteller
09-06-2012, 09:13 AM
8 track was not stupid. It made sense for what it was originally designed for. Use in automobiles, trucks, and boats. It was the first popular music format in vehicles where the driver could enjoy the music he wanted while driving.

1tumbleweed
09-06-2012, 09:25 AM
+1. Unfortunately, people look at a product from 1965 with twenty-first century eyes, and fail to see its place in history. When the 8 track was introduced, most people only had AM radios in their cars; even FM had barely begun to make a dent in peoples' consciousness. The 4 track started it all, but was mostly a regional success (on the east and west coasts), and used a lot of tape - the most expensive component. 8 track cut tape usage in half, at the expense of having to occasionally chop songs in half. (FWIW, not all duplicators did that. Some would repeat a song if necessary to keep the music intact.)

The most important thing to remember is that the 8 track was a portable format; it was designed to be used in cars or in small battery operated players. Its use in homes was secondary, although it eventually had a large presence there too. If some of the engineering and upgrading that the cassette enjoyed had been applied to the 8 track, it might have been around a lot longer. The first gas crisis of the '70s pretty much put an end to that, though.

Cassette = much smaller, less problems, LESS TAPE. And there ya go.

Wigwam Jones
09-06-2012, 10:31 AM
+1. Unfortunately, people look at a product from 1965 with twenty-first century eyes, and fail to see its place in history. When the 8 track was introduced, most people only had AM radios in their cars; even FM had barely begun to make a dent in peoples' consciousness. The 4 track started it all, but was mostly a regional success (on the east and west coasts), and used a lot of tape - the most expensive component. 8 track cut tape usage in half, at the expense of having to occasionally chop songs in half. (FWIW, not all duplicators did that. Some would repeat a song if necessary to keep the music intact.)

The most important thing to remember is that the 8 track was a portable format; it was designed to be used in cars or in small battery operated players. Its use in homes was secondary, although it eventually had a large presence there too. If some of the engineering and upgrading that the cassette enjoyed had been applied to the 8 track, it might have been around a lot longer. The first gas crisis of the '70s pretty much put an end to that, though.

Cassette = much smaller, less problems, LESS TAPE. And there ya go.

I agree. I see the situation in multiple ways.

First, these solutions were all attempts to solve perceived problems. Sometimes they were accepted by consumers, and sometimes they were not. The format I referred to in the beginning of this thread was not ultimately accepted by consumers; it was a failure commercially. That is not to say it did not exist or that it was not sold commercial. It did exist and it was sold commercially. It just didn't make it for very long and didn't reach widespread commercial acceptance.

Second, some solutions did find commercial success, and 8-track (and later, compact cassette) were two good examples.

Third, some people want to tear all things old down as 'crap' or 'stupid'. The stupid person is the one saying such things. They just do not understand the role these successful formats played in history, the niche they filled, shortcomings and all.

Fourth, some people want to make it appear that these older formats are somehow superior to what we have now. In most cases, they're not. Sorry, but they did have deficiencies that are readily seen against today's technology in many (not all) cases. So claiming that 8-tracks are superior-sounding (and yes, I've heard a few people proclaim that) is just ludicrous. They do not sound very good. Sorry, they just don't. But for what they were, they were fine and more than acceptable AT THE TIME.

Everything has context. These items were not crap at the time. They also were not superior to what we have now in most cases. Look at them in perspective; nothing is an absolute.

1tumbleweed
09-06-2012, 11:03 AM
Wiggy, I think you've got it nailed. The RCA cartridge was a great idea; it just wasn't the "killer app" that caught the public's eye. One could easily make the argument that the compact cassette was the ultimate solution (for a while...), because it took the principle of the RCA cartridge and shrunk it down to fit the needs of the public at large. The RCA device was never intended to be portable; it was seen at the time as just a way to make tape recorders easier to use for the casual user. It didn't hit that mark, in part because the baby boomers who might have embraced it weren't old enough to impact the market. The Revere cartridge also answered a question that nobody asked; and the Elcaset had the bad luck to come along after cartridges and cassettes were well established, and who needed another format?

The world is full of inventions that almost - but not quite - "made it". The laserdisc, which most people see as a failure, was quite succesful in its little niche, before HD came along. The development of DVD was another "killer app" once people began the migration to flat displays and away from CRTs.

I collect 8 tracks and listen to them often. Are they "hi fi"? Not really, but I enjoy them. I also collect laserdiscs, not least because of the cover art (same as LPs). Are they better than DVDs? Well, yes, sometimes...if it's a really superior LD against a crappy DVD. But you can't expect old technology to beat newer technology...with perhaps the notable exception of LPs..."the format that refuses to die".:thmbsp:

Wigwam Jones
09-06-2012, 11:12 AM
Yes, I absolutely agree.