Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Project 8-Track Success!


So I spent a lot of time trying to get the correct components to get my "brand-new-in-box" 1981 Pioneer 8-Track player installed in my 2012 Grand Sport 100th Anniversary Corvette.  Since the radio was separate and had left and right speakers "out" I needed to convert that to a 1/8th inch stereo-out (headphone jack) size for my Auxiliary-In of my head-unit so as to not have to splice wires behind, etc.  Using a Hi-Lo "Stinger" converter I was able to connect and ground the wires properly into RCA-Out jacks, then RCA-to-1/8th Stereo jack, then into the Aux-Port in my arm-rest.

Wanna buy an 8-Track tape? Our selection is extensive.
  I wasn't sure how to mount it, but it felt quite good just against the center hump vertically-installed, 8-Track-cassette-input on top to "slam down" into it as was prevalent in the 1970's.  Affixing it to the carpet side bolster via Velcro as it stayed by itself sitting there without any concern unfastened and loose even during my wildest turns, Velcro, I concluded, would be a satisfactory temporary solution.

The immortal Bootsy Collins of Parliament.  Never before or again will funk be so.. funky.  Brilliant.

  Grounded all the necessary wires to avoid car-induced AM-frequency "whine", everything checked-out.  Slapped-in "Star Wars" soundtrack and.. nothing.  Hm.

Verified good ground to the unit again using my new analog multi-meter but there was no power getting to the in-line fuse of the deck for some reason.  Was using my knife "Black Out", prying the fuse cover open when.. slllliiiip!  Black-Out almost blacked me out and gouged my left index finger up high to the bone where it stopped short.  Rather unpleasant feeling and I made a new profanity word.  It is, "Benghazi".  Ahem.  (Oh, come on.  How could I not put a political slant in here somewhere, eh?).  Blood oozed from the wound pretty darkly and impressively and I wrapped it with a paper towel indoors and rinsed it.  My house water has a small percentage of salt from the water softener and it was noticeably stingy.  Becky applied a Band-Aid which soaked through pretty readily and she recommended I be euthanized (just kidding).  She was sweet about the application and asked, "Well, there's your required blood-sacrifice!  Is it working now?"  I admitted not quite yet and handed her the inline fuse as I could not see the 2-Amp wire inside.  She indicated it was intact and I went back to checking all the wires.  The fuse-tap I had added had two fuse slots, I tried the second one and I saw some illumination but no sound.  Okay...

  Took out Star Wars and put in Rush's A Farewell to Kings.  Very quiet.  I jiggled the cassette a bit and voila! 
When they turn the pages of history, when these days have passed long ago,
Will they read of us with sadness for the seeds that we let grow?
We turned our gaze from the castles in the distance.
Eyes cast down on the path of least resistance.

  Ha!  It worked!  Just have to "jiggle the handle" as it were.  Pressed the Track button and different songs immediately played, hence the glory of 8-Track.  Still, there were times when it would suddenly slow down, then speed up.

Tim O'Connor as Dr.Huer caught on-film checking out Pamela Hensley's fun-box as Princess Ardala on the TV series Buck Rogers

  Audio quality was far better than my expectations.  I knew it would be about CD-quality due to the speed the 8-Track would play at and the amount of tape it flies through quickly, similar to a VCR tape in the SP mode for best quality.  I'd say it was marginally better than CD quality due to its analog sound and indeed better than a cassette.  I was quite surprised and impressed.

Erin Gray as Col.Deering in Buck Rogers
  Put in Jethro Tull's Greatest Hits and it played Teacher for me with some slurring and Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day.  Still, there's an inconsistency in the speed itself.  Jiggling the tape fixes that and pulling it out a bit.  Tried Star Wars again and it just ate the tape outright.  Boo.  Fast Forwarding worked pretty well (a rather late-in-the-life of 8-Tracks feature) as well as the "Repeat" option where it plays Track 1 of 4 (or whichever one you're on) over again, not skipping automatically to Track 2 once over.

Wonder Woman played by Lynda Carter affected more young boys than ever before in the 1970's where we discovered boobs were a good thing.
  Tracks are lain unevenly throughout for timing matters so there's not a lot of dead space.  There's actually 4 "Stereo" tracks on the tape, and the head moves up or down to each stereo track.  Actually, all "8" tracks are playing continuously in a loop, switching tracks just moves the head down to the next.  While you're listening to the first song, the next one is playing underneath it and can be selected at-will.  Problem is, if you are bored halfway through song 1, if you switch to song 2, yep, you guessed it, will play halfway through as well, starting off the same number of minutes-in you swapped.  Weird but kinda cool.

That's right:  F'n Soul Train.
   The 8-Track was fickle and would speed-up or slow down causing some weirdness like rubbing one's fingers on a turntable to slow down a record a bit, then suddenly surge forward.  If the tape was slapped-down flush (actually about an inch protrudes as is standard) it is too much force on the wheels and it will stop.  Star Wars broke the tape.

  Becky indicated as she remembered this that the issues I was having was very standard for 8-Tracks back in the '70s and that it was nothing new and why despite outstanding fidelity the mechanics were unsound, and yep, they'd have to "jiggle" the tape and pull it out a bit to get them to work no matter what.  Huh.



  I uninstall the Pioneer 8-Track rather easily, but not before listening to the last song of Rush's "A Farewell To Kings" spaceship into a black-hole song, Cygnus X-1:

Spinning, whirling, still descending like a spiral sea, unending!

  Indeed, this song defines the 8-Track's mechanism, as it's in an infinite loop, a single, spinning swath of tape in a center axle, yanked-outward from the center oddly, then up and over the entire spool of tape, back down and twisted and over the head, and then back to the outside spool.  Perfect song for this.  Perfect.

  The journey of the installation was not a loss.  It had me learn a lot about knives, fuses, inputs, grounds, multi-meters, and 8-Tracks, and.. dare I add, a little bit about myself .. too?
RIP dear friend.  To sleep, perchance to dream?


PS.  I kept the 8-Track, A Farewell To Kings, and it will stay always in my glove box.  A farewell to 8-Tracks.  Your simplicity yielding complexity met your far-too-early demise, dear friend.

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