Of course it was widely accepted that the pie pan sized reel-to-reel tape was the highest quality musical experience, but it wasn’t really practical for teenage consumer consumption.
I was partial to cassettes for a few reasons.
It was like having a miniature reel-to-reel system, although the cassette tape was a lot thinner, cramming four separate tracks onto a brown plastic strip that measured about an eighth of an inch.
You could also record on cassettes, which interested me as a musician and budding songwriter.
There were some recordable eight-tracks as well, in fact my older brother had one of the few eight-track recorders I had ever seen. I remember he had a bootleg eight-track recording of the Woodstock album that had a plain white label with typed song titles.
My brother was an eight-track man. (He was later a Sony Betamax early adopter, another doomed technology.) He had an eight-track player in the glove box of his car and a case of the large plastic tapes that primarily came in orange and black. Titles included The Best of Blood Sweat & Tears, Neil Young’s Harvest, and Stephen Stills and Manassas.
These tapes that were about the size of a frozen single-serve entrée had only one reel and I never figured out how they actually worked. Actually they often didn’t.
Sometimes the sound would go all wobbly and you had to wedge part of a wooden clothespin under the tape to adjust the head alignment. The tape also had a tendency to break or spool out and get caught up in the innards of the player.
Eight-tracks also divided two-sided albums into four sides, often interrupting songs in the middle to switch to another stereo track.
While digital music brought the extinction of tapes, if not vinyl records, cassettes lasted longer than eight-tracks. Those large-format tapes are not artifacts, rarely seen except maybe at flea markets, yard sales and on Ebay.
More than 30 years ago I was having lunch with some buddies from work when one told a story about his son finding an eight-track while the two were cleaning out the garage. The small boy was dumbfounded by it, having no idea what this thing was.
We all had a good laugh about that back then. By the early 80’s the eight-track tape had already begun it rapid fade into history.