Tagged: endless loop

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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Exatron Stringy Floppy (1978 – 1986)

The Exatron String Floppy was introduced in 1978, and was an endless loop tape cartridge system for microcomputers. At the time, floppy disk systems were still expensive, and cassette tapes were very slow. Despite the name, so-called stringy floppy systems are unrelated to floppy disks.

The tape cartridges, called wafers, contained a 1/16-inch loop of mylar-based chrome dioxide tape, in different lengths according to the capacity of the wafer. The smallest wafer contained 5 feet of tape and could hold 4 KB of data, and the longest was 75 foot and, capable of holding 64 KB of data. A 16 KB file took just 24 seconds to load.

The Exatron Stringy Floppy system was most commonly used with the TRS-80 range of computers, and did not require an expansion interface. By 1982, the price has fallen to $99.50. As well as being used to save data, software, including programs and games, was available on Stringy Floppy wafers.

Although popular with TRS-80 owners, the system could be unreliable, and as the price of faster and more reliable floppy disk drives fell they became less attractive. They continued to be advertised until 1986.

Similar stringy floppy tape systems were available during the 1980s, including the Sinclair ZX Microdrive, and the Rotronics Wafadrive.

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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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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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