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Car Record Players & Other Cool Vintage Devices

Link - Article by D. Salmons, TestFreaks, and Avi Abrams

Turntables for your Car: some collectors will trade you an iPad for these

Before the iPod, before the Walkman, and even before 8-track existed - Car Record Players were taking your music wherever you go! And just like the iPad, they also could do only one thing at a time...

(image from RCA Annual Report 1959, via)

We'll start with a retro expose of the car record player... and highlight a few other vintage devices along the way, which still retain their novelty and coolness factor for collectors. Don't miss our previous articles on Coolest RetroTech.

Car audio equipment has changed a lot over the years, and what used to be cutting edge is now buried in the realms of yesteryear. But, somewhere along the way and unknown to a lot of people, a record player was actually starting to gain a foothold as a choice for your cruising music source. Yes, a record player.

Now, these were not your standard "lift the arm and place it on a record" type players. Instead these were specially designed units that did their best to keep playing music even when bumps in life came along. But no doubt fiddling with a record in a moving car did little to keep it pristine.

The problems of playing and maintaining the humble record soon led to alternatives for automotive based music, but we thought it would be fun to take a glimpse during that short amount of time in 1956 that the car record player almost became a staple thanks to Chrysler.

(images credit: UAW Daimler Chrysler)

The Car Record - Ultra Micro Groove

It might be good to note that the car record player did not play a standard 45 rpm record. While the 7 inch record looked like a 45, it was actually designed to spin around at 16 and two/thirds rpm, much slower than 45. They also used a new format (ultra-microgroove), which allowed for more grooves per inch.

Together the new format and slower rotation gave a playing length of almost an hour, much more practical than changing the record every song as you were trying to drive. And the records were available in a variety of musical selections, considering the year. From Tchaikovsky to Gene Autry, music lovers could find a favorite for their traveling musical taste.

(images credit: Popular Science, November 1955)

Chrysler dubbed its player the "Highway HiFi", and it was packing a lot of technology for its time.

A silicon fluid controlled tone arm pivot minimized the sudden movements while still allowing the arm to gently follow the record grooves.

A counterweight made sure that the cartridge did not add any weight to the surface of the record. In this way the player avoided skips without introducing additional wear and tear to the record itself. The fluid damping movement avoided the destructive forces that a spring loaded assembly would have introduced to the playing process.

1956 car record players were pretty well received in the media: many heralded the new technology's ability to take your music with you on the road in places where the radio might not reach. Even celebrities such as Lawrence Welk were shown enjoying their tunes in their classic cruisers.

Dodge Polara 1960 not only had rocket-like tail lights, but also the RCA Victor record player:

(image via)

However, the general public was simply not buying into the concept (even when Chrysler tried to revive the idea early in the sixties with a trunk-mounted record auto changer). Eventually consumers would find a format for their traveling music that they would indeed accept and buy in droves. That wasn't until late 1968, when the 8 track tape player made its debut.

(images via 1, 2)

Comediscos - a portable record player, which looks like a round of cheese

This is a Spanish-made contraption, which is still pretty popular with eBay crowd. The Comediscos (literally 'disc eater' in Spanish) is a portable 45 rpm record player that was all the rage in Italy and Spain in the 60's and 70's, ages before the Walkman:

(images via Uri Moline)

Naturally, there is a Comediscos for your car - car audio system made by Phillips:


A few more intriguing vintage devices / gadgets / appliances:

Is your TV acting up and not displaying all the proper channels? Use a scientific approach - try levitation:

If the TV is too heavy for you - practice on levitating your fries first:

Still bored? Try the Oceanoscope camera device on some unsuspecting fish:

A Scent Organ

You can play music, or you can just inhale the atmosphere (as long as keep the scents non-drug-related):

(image via)

This portable "scent organ" was meant not only to boost creativity, but to also serve as a testing ground for deodorants and the cosmetics industry.

Even with big vintage typewriters you could put your office up in a tree

Today you can grab an iPad and sit under - or climb on top of - any tree you like. This is how it was done in the 1960s:

(image via)

Stay tuned for more wonderful vintage devices covered soon!

The material about car record players was compiled by D. Salmons, one of the contributors at TestFreaks, a site about consumer electronics. If you are looking to buy an LCD TV find reviews here

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.




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Anonymous Anonymous said...

There was also the VW Microbus that plays records by driving over them!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The in-car record player is how the cellphone manufacturer Motorola got its name. Back then, a brand of turntables was called Victrola. The company that was to become Motorola wanted to make a portable turntable for the car, and so called it Motor-ola.

Anonymous nmt success said...

wow. i never know about this before. it sure beat current I.C.E tech.

Blogger BRIKKA said...

Beautiful pictures.. it's amazing how things have changed while concepts remain. :)


Blogger Rick said...

Hmm, I guessed you missed the news, iPhone OS 4 will add multitasking adn the iPad gets the update in the fall. So, after the fall, you'll have to move along and make fun of something else. Maybe MSFT's dwindling market share?

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Rick - can't wait for the iPhone and iPad to get multi-tasking. Will happily adjust article when this happens!

Blogger Marrock said...

The ipad worked better and had more features when HP made it about five years ago.

Anonymous Glen said...

I bet that was not at all a fun driving along trying to change the record every two minutes.

Blogger eggnostriva said...

There was a machine by Bush, called the discassette. It had a slot not unlike modern Cd players and the 45 simply slid in.


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