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Happy Media

John Day

John Day

Posted Jul 26, 2011

Ford announced in England that in-car CD players are going the way of cassette tapes. The company noted that each Focus in the UK is equipped with an auxiliary input socket for connecting MP3 devices, and Bluetooth for wireless connection.

Ford said it’s increasing the availability of Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) radio to UK customers, and will launch Ford SYNC next year. So customers won’t lack for infotainment. After all, it noted, CD sales in the UK fell by 35% between 2006 and 2010 while digital album sales jumped more than seven-fold. Digital single sales now account for 98% of the market.

It’s progress, and progress is good, but seeing the announcement brought the topic of obsolescence to mind. CDs were a big improvement over cassette tapes. Does anyone else still have a collection of cassette tapes? I didn’t think so. And cassette tapes were a big improvement over 8-tracks. Is there anyone still spry enough to drive who remembers when 8-tracks were cool?

Obsolete? I’ll show you obsolete. Well, I can’t anymore because I got rid of it years ago, and it never fit in the car (except in the back seat), but it was a gorgeous piece of early consumer electronics – state of the art – combining both an 8-track and a reel-to-reel tape player. Historians will note that reel-to-reel was wildly popular for about two weeks in 1970 or thereabouts.

You might imagine why reel-to-reel never caught on in cars, nor did vinyl, but I recall seeing a TV commercial advertising an in-car record player, and according to some cursory Internet research, it (the Highway HiFi record player) was invented by Dr. Peter Goldmark, who is also credited with developing 33-1/3 RPM records. The in-car player was available in Chrysler vehicles from 1956-1959.

Will we look back fondly in future years at MP3 and Bluetooth? Quite possibly so.

MP3 devices, Ford Sync, reel-to-reel tape players, Bluetooth, cassette tapes, 8-track players, Ford, Ford Focus, Chrysler, Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB)

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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