Tagged: cartridge

Cartridges generally have a single spool of tape. This either contains a single endless loop of tape, or a take-up reel is contained in the device and the tape unwound from the spool.

Milton Bradley Omni (1980 – early 1980s)

The Omni was, in effect, an audio game console using 8-Track tape cartridges to supply the pre-recorded questions and answers along with some data (not audible to the user) to control the scoring indicators. There was no video output.

It was introduced by MB Electronics in 1980, a division of the Milton Bradley company that had introduced the Microvision handheld video game console the previous year.

Up to four players could play the Omni system at any one time, and each player had a row of 11 buttons displaying numbers, colours and clusters of letters to type in the answers.

Most of the released cartridges contained quiz-type games, and there were four programmes to choose on each tape (in the same way as audio 8-Track cartridge). Cartridges came with a dust cover to protect the tape when not in use, and users were advised not to touch the exposed tape, as the data contained on the tape would be more sensitive to dust and fingerprints than a standard 8-Track.

Fewer than 15 cartridge titles were created for the console, and perhaps partly due to its high price, it doesn’t appear to have been very successful.

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Philips Background Music Services cartridge (1970s – 1980s)

Philips Background Music Services cartridges were based on the Fidelipac B size cartridge and were 4-track mono cartridges for background music systems made by Philips. Being based on the Fidelipac cartridge meant they were endless loop tapes and would simply repeat the music once all four tracks had been played through.

There appear to have been two models of player, the BMS 2500 and the BMS 2600.

The cartridges themselves display a description of the type of music contained on them (for example, ‘music for stylish surroundings’) and are contained in a box that had the return address and space for a stamp on the rear, so the cartridges could be returned to Philips Background Music Services after use.

The system could be used for locations such as shops, offices and restaurants, and the pre-recorded music was licensed for public performance

By 1989 Philips had begun using the CD-BGM format, for example in its BMS 3000 player.

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Grundig Stenorette (1954 – 1970s)

The Stenorette was an office dictation machine introduced by Grundig in 1954, and successfully sold internationally. It was perhaps the earliest magnetic tape dictation system – at the time of its introduction, most office dictation systems were using discs or belts onto which grooves were pressed, such as the SoundScriber, Audograph, or Dictabelt systems. The first model, the Stenorette A, was nicknamed the ‘tree frog’ due to its green colour. Like some other dictation systems, the microphone doubled as the speaker, and contained stop/start controls.

The Stenorette cassette contained a single reel of ¼-inch tape, and a loop on the end was pulled out and clipped into the take-up reel. Recording time was 30 minutes per cassette, but some offered 45 minutes. Some tapes, particularly those from the US, seem to have no cover and are simply a small reel.

The Stenorette cassette system lasted into the 1970s with the introduction of the Stenorette SL model in 1972, but Grundig launched its first machine using its new cassette format, the Steno-Cassette in the same year. The Steno-Cassette was a true cassette containing dual reels and as well as being more compact, didn’t need to be rewound before being removed from the machine. The Stenorette name was continued on machines using the newer Steno-Cassette format.

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EIAJ-2 (1972 – late 1970s)

EIAJ-2 was a video tape format developed by the Electronic Industries Association of Japan and sold by Matsushita under the National or Panasonic brands, and also by Hitachi. The format is also referred to as Omnivision. It was introduced around 1972, as Billboard magazine refers to it being under development in August 1972, and in February 1973, Panasonic re-emphasised its commitment to the format.

It was a development of the open reel EIAJ-1 standard and used the same ½-inch tape and recording specifications. However, the tape was enclosed in a cartridge to do away with the need for manually threading it, but unlike later video cassette formats the take-up reel is enclosed within the video recorder so the cartridge needed to be rewound before the cartridge could be removed from the machine.

EIAJ-2 offered colour recording on 30 minute cartridges (a 60 minute cartridge came later, and appears to be rare) and was used in the industrial, educational and consumer markets.

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Preservation / Migration

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Movie Viewer (1971 – 1985, 2014 – )

The Movie Viewer was a children’s toy for viewing Super 8 film clips. Originally introduced in 1971 by Disney, it was redesigned and rebranded as the Fisher Price Movie Viewer in 1973 but was also sold under various brand names over its lifetime including Action Films, Fisher Price, Corgi/Mettoy, Mothercare, World Wildlife Fund, Red Cross, Disney, Mupi and Bandai.

The cartridges contained a loop of colour Super 8 film (without sound) so no rewinding was necessary, and the Movie Viewer was hand-cranked allowing the user to rewind the film, or play it faster or slower. A small window in the side of the Movie Viewer let in light, and no batteries were required.

A large selection of cartridge titles were available, including clips from Disney, Warner Brothers, Peanuts, and Sesame Street.

In 1978, Fisher Price introduced a Theater Viewer with a backlit screen so the film could be seen by several people.

The Movie Viewer was a popular toy and continued to be made until 1985. It was relaunched in 2014 by Fisher Price with a choice of three films (old cartridges are still compatible).

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Pocket Rockers (1988 – 1991)

Pocket Rockers was a portable music player aimed at children, and introduced by Fisher-Price in 1988.

Unlike other personal stereos of the time that were based around the Compact Cassette, Pocker Rockers used a small proprietary endless-loop cartridge (more like a miniature 8-Track) each containing two songs licensed from popular artists. When the first song ended, a switch on the player allowed you to switch to the other track.

The players came with a built in speaker, and a headphone jack. Accessories such as external speakers and tape storage systems were also available.

They were advertised with the tagline ‘Tiny Tapes, Tiny Players’ and came in a range of colourful designs. They were a fashion item as much as a music system (the tapes came with a belt clip that meant they could be worn) and were briefly popular enough to be banned in some schools.

By 1991 though, falling sales spelled the end for them.

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Rediffusion Reditune (1960s – 1980s)

Reditune was a division of Rediffusion in the UK, and produced background music systems for shops and workplaces.

It began producing music on tape cartridges based on the Fidelipac (without a capstan), later switching to its own endless-loop tape cartridge design incorporating a capstan, and holding 4 hours of music across four tracks. Like the 8-Track cartridge, the players could automatically switch tracks. The music on Reditune cartridges was produced within Rediffusion, and consisted of cover versions of popular tunes. Reditune dominated the market for background music in the UK.

Subscribers to the Reditune service leased cartridges and could exchange them as often as required.

Eventually, Reditune switched to long-play Compact Cassettes and then to CD-BGM.

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Mail Call Letterpack (late 1960s)

The Mail Call Letterpack was a magnetic tape recording format for voice recordings, introduced by Smith Corona in the late 1960s.

It was an endless-loop cartridge system, based on the PlayTape cartridge but using a single track and mylar tape. The inventor of PlayTape, Frank Stanton, envisioned it as a replacement for written memos and letters, and marketed it to Smith Corona.

The recording/playback units were advertised at ‘less than $70.00 a pair’. The cartridges themselves (called ‘Letterpacks’) were offered in 3, 6, or 10 minute lengths, were reusable, and sturdy enough to be sent in the post.

It was not a success.

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Technicolor Sound Movie Cartridge (1968 – 1970s)

The Technicolor Sound Movie Cartridge (also known as the TK Cassette) was an endless loop cartridge system for Super 8 film, introduced by Technicolor in 1968 to be played in the new 1000-A projector system that contained its own built in speaker. Being cartridge-based meant no threading of film, and was similar in concept to audio tape cartridge systems like 8-Track. At the end of the film, a notch indicated to the projector to switch off.

The Technicolor Sound Movie Cartridge is a larger (but incompatible) version of Technicolor’s earlier Magi-Cartridge.

The Sound Movie Cartridge could hold up to 30 minutes of colour sound film (600 foot in length) in the largest size cartridge, and some full-length movies were available on the format, split across up to four cartridges. The system also saw use in education and training, such as distributing information about new car models to dealers.

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Tefifon (1950 – 1960s)

Tefifon was a music playback format, mainly available in West Germany, using an endless loop plastic band onto which grooves were engraved and read with a stylus.

Three different size cartridges were offered; the smallest provided up to 18 minutes of music, the medium size one up to 60 minutes, and the largest size cartridge could hold up to 4 hours of music. Sound quality was better than that offered by 78 rpm records, but not as good as Long Playing vinyl records. Stereo sound was offered from 1961.

The first Tefifon players and cartridges were available from 1950, but record companies were not interested in the format so relatively unknown artists were offered, mostly compilations of cover versions of hits or dance music, operas and operettas.

Tefifon players were available as standalone devices, or combined with radios.

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