Picture of 8 Track Walkman-Pod thing (Retro-tech)
This is an admittedly mad project to see what might have happened if Sony had invented the Walkman earlier than they did - and made it so it took 8 track tape cartridges (which came before cassette tapes were invented).

In other words, can I make a personal 8 track player with just headphones in the style of a Walkman?
How small can I make it? Bear in mind it needs quite a bit of power to move the tape loop around inside the cartridge.

Before anyone asks what the point is, it is to see if I can do it, just like most other things I make. I accept this one is only of super-niche interest.

A couple of years ago I bought a really cool "Lear-Jet" 8 track tape cartridge player and got it working for an old car. These preceded cassette players and were unusual in that the tape runs in a continuous loop - you cannot fast-forward or rewind them like a cassette. They were the first usable in-car entertaiment device and sold mainly in the US. After doing more research I found out more:
a) The cartridges had reputation for jamming and sticking. However the internal mechanisms can usually be restored to work properly.
b) The tape moves much faster past the tape head than in the later cassette tapes. This is so the "hiss" becomes higher frequency than you can hear, necessary as Dolby hiss reduction did not come along until later.
c) Therefore, with a high-end 1970's indoor HiFi player, the sound quality can actually be very good.
d) No matter how old they are (1970's and early 80's) the actual tape itself does not degrade much. I have some that sound stunningly good against all expectations.
e) I like 70's rock!

I would recommend younger viewers to read around this subject, the history of the 8 Track player is an adventure in itself featuring people such as William Lear of Lear-Jet fame and "Mad-Man" Muntz, an early affordable TV pioneer in the US.

Everything you may want to know can be found on these pages, especially the first one:

uncaff3 years ago
A little off topic, but the old 8-track reel to reel machines, which used the same
recording tape as the car units, were in my day (the 1970's) a necessary
part of any serious music setup. You can still occasionally find good working
units in second-hand stores.

I've never taken an 8-track tape out of its car player cassette and spooled it on
a reel to play on a reel to reel unit, but I'm sure it can be done. The sound
was always potentially better than 1/8 inch cassette tape. If you own a lot of old
8 track tapes you might consider looking for a reel to reel machine and splicing
the tapes together for playing. As I recall, a full 50 ft. reel gave about 2 hours
of continuous good quality music - a retro party machine.
onemoroni14 years ago
This is cool, but I don't think I would do it. I would like to add a player to my old stereo system as there a tapes dumped on thrift stores all the time.
thirst4know4 years ago
I had an 8-track in my 74 super beetle in 1989. James Brown in fluorescent orange. Yellow Led Zep! I loved it! Nice mod.
Lance Mt.6 years ago
I am one of the older generation and i know for a fact that i could never appreciate this for what its truly worth. BUT I CAN STILL TRY! THIS IS GOD-LIKE! man its just awesome! More projects like this and i'll be one happy kid
XenonJohn (author)  Lance Mt.4 years ago
If time and money no object how about a really small Quadraphonic 8 track player transmitting the audio out via 4 wireless links to a set of 4 tiny self contained cube speakers you could then place around you or just a set of quad-headphones with front/rear speakers in each side of the headphone.

I also thought of an auto-loader for the tapes like the magazine from a gun but actually they did make machines like this in the 70's!
Hahahahaha, Immediately dated my friend.
Just clarify your note: 8-tracks nor the cassette was NOT the first portable media for the automobile......it was a RECORD Player....check this link out:

XenonJohn (author)  little wonder4 years ago
I know, I saw one for sale recently for $600.

On the walkman theme, Audio Technica did try to make a record-player-walkman called the "Sound Burger." I even remember seeing it in the shops.


wow that amazing but it probly skipped alot
I hate to break it to you but, if you check Wikipedia, you'll see Philips introduced their Compact Cassette in 1963 in Europe, a good year before Lear's Stereo 8 was on the streets of the US (although there'd been tape cartridges around for a fair few years, they weren't 8-tracks).

Still awesome, just thought I'd adjust your history for you =)
XenonJohn (author)  Irregular Shed4 years ago
I stand corrected. Maybe it was because the original compact cassetes were made for dictation machines and sound quality early on was really poor until Dolby noise reduction made Hi-Fi compact cassette based machines feasible.

I spent most of my youth listening to LP's and compact cassette recordings made from them then CD's as an adult.
Am amazed how good 8 tracks sound when looked after and played using a good machine in that warm analogue way!

Yup that what I was thinking, when I read the intro here. However prerecorded 8 track cartridges where widely available before prerecorded cassettes where, Before 8 track, there where 4 track tape cartridges, but they never took hold here in the middle of the USA.
XenonJohn (author) 5 years ago

I haven't come back to look at this for a while, thanks for all the comments.

What I would really like to do next is build a machine where the the 8 track cartridge clips to the front surface. A complex mechanism a bit like that in a VHS video tape player then pulls out a loop of tape so it can run between a high quality motor, large pinch roller and quality pickup to give a real high quality sound and a great looking machine.

Blackice5045 years ago
mayble you could have a voltage regulator for the 3volts then there is no need for such a switch. PS: this would be a great gift for Fathers day.
Blackice5045 years ago
AHHHH! i was goind to say where did you find a 8-track tape deck with surface mount mobo lol. <<< it must have been used in NASA lol.
this is cool but i dont have any tapes but for like musical recordings and if i found tapes this would be cool
This is a great idea! I am one of the younger generation that knows what 8-tracks are. I have about 50-60 tapes with an 8-track player that is built into my old record player. I have been trying to modify an old plunger player to work the same way but I might give this a go and see what happens. (Just so you know, I am 16 and a member of 8trackheaven.com)Also, you can fast-foward 8-tracks, my machine has the standard select along with puase, record, and fast foward. And with the part of "Mad Man" Ernie Muntz, he actually invented what is called a 4-track and a comany later took his idea and made it better and less complicated in the machine and called it the 8-track because it had 4 sets of stereo tracks while Muntz only had 2, and a big hole in the back of the tape that the pinch wheel flipped up into because it was in the machine instead of in the tape like the 8-track
Dude; most of your comment is copied from Wikipedia. I know of no one from that era who used "4 sets of stereo tracks " A clumsy phrase at best. The nerds knew that the tracks where paired up to provide stereo recording and playback, everyone else didn't care. As long as the machine didn't eat the tape. I'm glad you enjoy the old tech, but simply post a link to the wikipedia article. I wonder why the wiki on 8 tracks didn't mention the Quadraphonic 8 tracks. THAT was something a little different from the usual fare.
I did not know that there was something on that site like what I said. I just learned it in a small "History" class I had with my grandfather. I had to get a new record player because the transformer in my last one had gone out. The one I got had an 8-track player in it and he told me a short history. (He's a really smart person.) He did not mention the Quadraphonic tapes.
i showed this to my dad he said "ahh the good ol days"lol
Shaggydp6 years ago
Only one question Why?
vistal6 years ago
8 track was way better then tapes .Well they where bigger but man when you can click a button and fast forward to the next song they was sweet and they sounded pretty much the same at the time. Its just like Beta .Beta was clearly better then VHS it had a better pic too.
Mtalus6 years ago
I'll never forget the day some lowlife (with good taste) broke my van window and made off with my 8 track deck. Tapes too. So sad.
racastro626 years ago
8-track cartridges! This is almost Steampunk ! Anyway, It's amazing: Hats off!
cowen6 years ago
That is a good project build. Kinda bulky and very power intense but for the most part an awsome build idea.
ka1axy6 years ago
Lear-Jet That's for real -- same guy that invented the private jet, invented the 8-track.
srilyk6 years ago
8 tracks FTW. I have an old 8track/record player that doesn't fit anywhere in my apartment which is heartbreaking. I'm really looking forward to moving! Styx on an 8 track is just pure rock. Also I'm the younger generation - I don't think I was even a gleam in my father's eye by the time the 8 tracks came and went.
uguy6 years ago
Most excellent!
Flashflint6 years ago
That is so cool!