The Incredible Shrinking 4-Track


Four-tracks have been getting smaller every decade. When I was a kid, in the 80s, I had one. A Tascam 244 (pictured 2nd in list) to be exact, that recorded four tracks of audio to a standard cassette tape. It was the size of a suitcase, and about as rugged as one, too. Remember those Tourister commercials with the gorilla? Exactly.

[caption id="attachment_28933" align="alignleft" width="490" caption="(from left: Teac reel-to-reel ca. '70s, Tascam cassette tape ca. '80s, Boss digital ca. 2000, iPhone 4-track app 2009)"][/caption]

But of course four tracks weren't enough for an ambitious songwriter. So I'd ping pong tracks, but not in mono. Ohhhh, no. Mono was for amateurs. I'd do four drum tracks and dump them down to a standard cassette deck. Then I'd copy those two stereo tracks onto two new tracks, on a new tape, on the four-track and add two more, and then repeat.

True, there was serious generation loss each time, but the mounting tape hiss was a fair trade off for eight or even ten tracks in stereo.
Today, kids growing up don't have to worry so much about tape hiss. And suitcase-sized 4-tracks have been replaced by iPhones.

Wait, hold on, rewind. Did he say iPhones???

Don't believe me? Check out the making of The 88's recent single "Love Is The Thing."

Check out past On Music posts here.