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.

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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Stereo-Pak 4-Track Cartridge (1962 – 1970)

The Stereo-Pak 4-track cartridge was the forerunner to 8-track cartridges. It was based on the Fidelipac cartridge, the industry standard tape cartridge used at the time for radio broadcasting of commercials and jingles, but used 4 tracks to provide 2 stereo programmes.

It was introduced in 1962 by Earl ‘Madman’ Muntz (a merchandiser of used cars and consumer electronics). Players were usually fitted to cars (including those of a number of celebrities) but home players were also available, and these were capable of using the larger cartridges based on B and C size Fidelipac cartridges.  The Stereo-Pak system lasted until around 1970, by which time 8-Track was more popular despite being of poorer quality.

Muntz licensed music by many popular artists from most of the major record labels, and released hundreds of titles in many genres. Columbia Records was one of the few major record labels to release music recorded on Stereo-Pak cartridges themselves on a widespread basis.

The tape is arranged in an infinite loop which traverses a central hub and crosses a tape head at 3¾ inches per second, pulled by tension. The tape is dampened by a lubricant on the back, usually graphite. A lever on the player allowed the switching between programmes. Due to the method the tape is moved, it is impossible to rewind, and often risky to fast forward a 4-track tape.

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Fidelipac (1959 – late 1990s)

Fidelipac (commonly known as an NAB cartridge) was a magnetic tape cartridge format, used in radio broadcasting for playback of material such as radio commercials or jingles. It was the first audio tape cartridge commercially available when it was introduced in 1959 by Collins Radio.

Fidelipac used ¼-inch endless loop tape, with two or three tracks one of which was used to cue the tape. Most players ran at 7.5 inches per second, though some could also run at 3.75 or 15 ips.

There were three sizes of Fidelipac available; the 4-inch wide A size (up to 10.5 minutes playing time), the 6-inch wide B size, and the 8-inch wide C size. The most commonly used for broadcasting purposes was the A size, and the B and C sizes were usually used for background music applications where the tape speed usually was 3.75 inches per second for longer playing times.

Fidelipac was adapted as the basis for the 4-Track Stereo-Pak cartridge. Other similar cartridge designs were later used in broadcasting, such as the Audiopak and Scotchcart.

Unlike the 8-Track cartridge (but like the 4-Track cartridge), the pinch roller was built into the player and swung into place through a hole in the cartridge.

Fidelipac was widely used at radio stations until the late 1990s, when such formats as MiniDisc and computerized broadcast automation made it obsolete.

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Bandai micro cartridge (mid 1980s)

The Bandai micro cartridge was made by Bandai Japan in the mid-1980s, and is a very small endless-loop magnetic tape cartridge about half the size of a Microcassette. It was also smaller than the similar Pocket Rockers cartridge, and contained only one song against the two on Pocket Rockers.

It uses included a miniature replica Wurlitzer jukebox made by Leadworks, and an ‘Elvis in Concert’ doll with built in tape player in the base.

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Echo-matic II (1962 – early 1970s)

The Echo-matic II was a two-track endless-loop magnetic tape cartridge invented by Bernard Cousino and marketed by Orrtronics.

It was intended for use in commercial applications such as point of sale, most famously as the audio system for the Zolton fortune teller arcade machine. The players allowed the tape to run continuously or to stop after a single play.

Cousino invented the use of tape treated on the back with colloidal graphite, which not only lubricated the tape in the pack but conducted away static. This was first used in 1952 in the Audiovendor cartridge which looped the tape around the heads of an open-reel tape recorder and was later developed as the Echo-matic enclosed cartridge.

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