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To My Dad: Memories of the 8-Track

Posted By Suzie Mitchell On June 14, 2012 @ 11:42 am In The Download | Comments Disabled

In late 1970, my Dad brought home a new car–a cobalt blue Chevy Caprice Classic with an 8-track tape deck installed under the dashboard. That tape deck, in that car, was my springboard to my technology adventures.

As soon as I got my drivers’ license in early 1971, I got behind the wheel of that bright blue baby, and cruised my neighborhood, with tape recorded music playing inside this car.  Most of my friends had only heard of eight track players never actually seeing one in person.  They were still listening to music from the radio with songs selected by a disc jockey.  Not me–I had personalized music. I was hip.

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Here’s the type of 8-track tape deck that was mounted under the dash of my Dad’s car.

So on weekends, I’d drive my Dad’s car to my girlfriend’s house that was a few blocks away.  Our other friends would come to her house and we’d pile into the blue bomber.  We would turn on the engine, sit there, and listen to tapes.  We didn’t drive anywhere.  We stayed parked, marveling at the coolness of the car’s 8 track deck.

However, we could only listen to my Dad’s 8-track tapes which were jazz from Dave Brubeck and Thelonious Monk.  That was ok for a while, but soon bored us.  So, some of the guys decided to buy a few rock and roll tapes to expand our music selection.  This went on for a couple of weeks, until the car crowd started getting out of control.  Fellow teens started huddling around the car smoking cigarettes waiting for their turn inside the vehicle. This was a problem.  My Dad’s car could get ruined and I’d be busted.  So I made up an excuse that the tape deck was broken, and instantly I didn’t have a cool car anymore.  However, the thrill of new technology rushed my soul.

My love for technology lay dormant for a few years. At college, I had the requisite suburban girl items like an electric typewriter, cassette player, a hand held blow dryer and a microwave.

But it was after graduation, in the summer of 1977, that I got computerized. In my first job as a newspaper reporter, the editor asked for volunteers to try typing their stories on a computer.  I worked in the “Women’s Section” for a small town daily in suburban Cleveland.  My coworkers were older-all beyond 30-some even as ancient at 50 and they didn’t seem too excited to experiment.

“I will, I will” I remember shouting, nearly jumping from my seat and flailing my arms in the air, hoping to get a chance to work on the “machine”. I desperately wanted to be part of the newfangled future. The editor said “OK,” and my writing instrument changed forever.

But it was hard to talk about the new technology with others, because in those days most people I knew didn’t work with computers.   Outside of the newsroom, most people didn’t even type.

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My Dad known as “Mr. Bobby” on his CB and me in the late 70s

But that wasn’t the case with my Dad.  He typed; he used Dictaphones, and other gadgets with names that I no longer recall.  He had a Citizens Band radio (CB) in the car so he could talk to colleagues in the field.  His “handle” was Mr. Bobby.

So we talked tech together.  We lived in different states, but still talked by landline phones several times a week.  We’d talk about our computers and what we could accomplish on them. He actually owned a home computer before me, working DOS programs.  We strengthened our bond with tech talk about Microsoft Word programs.  He taught me how to do my first spreadsheet.

“When are you getting a cell phone?” I remember him asking, after he had purchased a suitcase sized phone in a box that he was carrying around.  It was several years later before I actually had a hand held cell phone.

My Dad and I never got to share documents via email because he died in 1997– at 68-years-old after a short bout with lung cancer– before email was really mainstream. He would have loved smartphones, iPads and the tons of apps that are available.  He would have golfed with Wii and jogged with Kinect for Xbox 360.

Like so many others whose fathers are gone from their lives, I miss my Dad. He taught me to never stop reaching for the next adventure and to always keep learning. We shared so much, and we were so connected.  If he had a phone number for him, I’d text him, “Thanks for everything, Dad, you are my BFF. Happy Father’s Day.”


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