Doomed to the scrap heap of obsolescence, the eight-track cartridge easily falls into the category of "It seemed like a good idea at the time…" Of our fairly substantial eight-track library, which at one time included such timeless classics as KISS ALIVE! and the first BOSTON album, only three tapes survive. From Wikipedia: "… some of the inherent deficiencies of the Stereo 8 format that contributed to its decline:
- High wow and flutter due to the constantly changing load presented by the sliding tape pack
- Tendency to jam as the tape got dirty, the lubricant wore away, and the tape was exposed to heat
- Flattening of the pinch roller, over time, when a cartridge was left plugged in, causing increased wow and flutter
- Inability to attain and maintain head alignment due to the movable head design.
"By the late 1970s, when sales of eight-tracks slipped, (record companies) were quick to abandon the format…"
There were, of course, other factors that contributed to the demise of the eight-track — not the least of which was the fact that record companies often had to resort to outright butchery in order to fit an entire album on a tape: note that "Rock and Roll" on the Zeppelin eight-track has been split into two parts — it just fades out in the middle of the song, then clicks over to part two. As if no one would notice!