Moving up from AM to 8-track stereo

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column about a cheap AM transistor radio I had as a child, how much use I got out of it, and how it opened my world to music and sports.

Some of you let us know how much you liked it, so here is the sequel.

I have always been a radio listener, no matter where I went, or how old I got. By the time I worked in a summer camp during high school and college, the little AM radio was long-gone. I replaced it with a GE AM/FM portable radio that was more powerful and had better sound.

It kept me updated on baseball scores, and I was even able to listen to some static-filled, distant play-by-play broadcasts. It let me know that President Nixon had decided to resign and would be leaving the White House the next day. I was in the backseat of an old car filled with friends and listening to music when the programming was interrupted by a special report.

That radio is also long-gone also. But one that looks just like it, and from the same era and manufacturer, sits on my desk and is fully functional. It plays the Astros games and sports talk.

There is something about being outdoors and playing the radio. It is nostalgic. The radio has character that the more modern gadgets lack.

But there was another way we used to listen to music on-the-go, back when dinosaurs roamed. We had cassette tape players, or 8-track players. I bought cassette players because they were more compact, and the tapes were smaller.

My buddy, Richard, had an 8-track player in his car, and I really liked the way that sounded. Compared to today, it was garbage, but back then we didn’t know about all these fancy devices of the future.

I never bought an 8-track player. My friend’s car player broke pretty quickly. That warned me to stay away. The gadget was just too complicated inside -- too many twists and turns for the tape to make before the music could be heard.

Never, until now.

I just bought one of those 1970s 8-track portable stereos in pretty good condition - with AM/FM radio to boot. The seller wrote that it works. We’ll see when it arrives.

I do most of my shopping locally, but for this, I had to go to eBay, where I’ve had good luck buying back all my childhood electronic toys, including a portable record player that I got recently. It’s not the same one I had, but it’s O.K.

I’m still looking for that cheap Singer portable record player with AM/FM radio that I bought in the early 1970s. Apparently, not too many of them survived the decade. Mine didn’t.

Now I need 8-track tapes. Back to eBay. There are plenty there. I’ll get a bunch of ‘70s rock and roll music before the player arrives. That’s the decade when all the good music was made.

I know that it will sound horrible compared to today’s digital music on that micro SD card in our phones. But I don’t buy these relics for sound quality. I buy them for memories.

I also know that many of you readers are thinking like I do. It’s fun to walk down memory lane (while you still can).

That is probably why I received a couple of calls after the first column appeared. Readers wanted to share their early-day radio or gadget stories, or called to say how much they enjoy the column and the paper.

Most people just read the piece and move on. Very few call to tell us how much they have enjoyed the story and how it brought back good memories, so I appreciate the calls.

I hope this 8-track purchase was a good deal. The last time I saw one of these tapes, it was stuck inside Richard’s car player, being devoured and making strange noises.

That’s when he turned on the radio instead.