July 13, 2012
Before the iPod: Highway Hi-Fi — Music on the road in 1956
Steve Jobs was still in diapers in 1956 when Chrysler came out with the optional Highway Hi-Fi player (above), offering music of your choice on the road.
Excerpts from Jim Koscs's June 8, 2012 New York Times story about the history of in-car entertainment follow.
Automakers realized that the holy grail of in-car entertainment would be the ability for drivers to play their own music collections on the road. In 1956, Chrysler tried to accommodate them with an in-car record player it called Highway Hi-Fi.
Developed by a research scientist from the laboratories of CBS, Highway Hi-Fi used a new ultra-microgroove format that provided 45 minutes of playing time per side from its small 16-2/3 r.p.m. record discs. Though Chrysler claimed skip-free performance, owners had mixed results.
A limited selection of music recordings, along with the contraption's proprietary format that would not play on home equipment, doomed Highway Hi-Fi to failure.
For 1960, Chrysler replaced it with a new accessory record player, made by RCA Victor, that played up to a dozen standard 45 r.p.m. records. Working better in a parked car than a moving one, it was dropped by Chrysler after 1961.
July 13, 2012 at 02:01 PM | Permalink
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"A number of recordings were pressed at 16⅔ rpm. Prestige Records released a number of jazz records in this format in the late 1950s, for example, Baritones and French Horns. Peter Goldmark, the man who developed the 33⅓ rpm record, developed the Highway Hi-Fi 16⅔ rpm record to be played in Chrysler automobiles, but poor performance of the system and weak implementation by Chrysler and Columbia led to the demise of the 16⅔ rpm records. Subsequently, the 16⅔ rpm speed was used for radio transcription discs or narrated publications for the blind and visually impaired, and were never widely commercially available, although it was common to see new turntable models with a 16 rpm speed setting produced as late as the 1970s." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramophone_record#Speeds
I had quite a collection of French language lessons on 16 rpm recordings back in the 1960s (amazing what one can find in the trash in NYC).
Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Jul 13, 2012 11:36:31 PM
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