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PlayTape logo.svg
Media typeMagnetic tape endless loop
EncodingMono analog signal
CapacityTypically 8 to 24 minutes of audio per program[1]
Read mechanismstereo tape head
Write mechanismprerecorded only
Usageportable and mobile audio playback devices

PlayTape is a 18 inch (3.2 mm)[2] audiotape format and mono or stereo playback system introduced in 1966 by Frank Stanton.[3] It is a two-track system, and was launched to compete with existing 4-track cartridge technology. The cartridges play anywhere from eight to 24 minutes, and are continuous. Because of its portability, PlayTape was an almost instant success, and over 3,000 artists had published in this format by 1968. White cases usually meant about eight songs were on the tape.[4]

Introducing PlayTape[edit]

At the time of PlayTape's launch, vinyl records reigned supreme, and Earl Muntz's Stereo-Pak (based on the broadcast "Fidelipac" cartridge system) was also a popular sound delivery system. His car players were offered with stereo sound. Bill Lear's 8-track tape system, though in production, had not yet achieved its market potential. Moreover, neither Lear or Muntz was offering a portable player, though Muntz eventually did sell one.

While PlayTape found some success in reaching the youth audience, it was not as successful in targeting the business market.[5] Stanton marketed his device as a dictation machine, but he was unable to persuade businesses to adopt his creation. Issues of player quality limited sales, and ultimately, the introduction of home and portable players by the 4-track and 8-track manufacturers led to the demise of PlayTape.

Automobile players[edit]

Only a handful of small compact players, and a few very rare car players were sold to the open market. In the United States, Volkswagen was the only manufacturer to offer a PlayTape player as optional equipment.[citation needed] They are collectors' items today.[2]

Volkswagen saw a market opportunity in the U.S. for automotive audio players in 1968. Frank Stanton, president of PlayTape, announced that Motorola would manufacture an automotive player in OEM and aftermarket models for Volkswagen. The "Sapphire I" OEM model was designed for in-dash installation, and included an AM radio. The "Sapphire II" aftermarket version omitted the radio, and was designed to hang from the dashboard. The price for either unit was said to be about US $40, (today US $288).[6]

Stanton also claimed that VW dealers would carry about 250 PlayTape titles for sale, and that some Volkswagen dealers would also sell the full line of PlayTape home and portable players. "We feel that Volkswagen salesmen will be able to interest the purchaser of a Sapphire I player in a complementary model for his home," Stanton said.[7]

Mail Call[edit]

In 1967 Smith Corona (SCM) used this cartridge format for the Mail Call,[8] a device which contained the PlayTape drive and its design looked a little like a telephone and used blank tape PlayTape cartridges, offered in capacities of 3, 6 and 10 minutes of recording time to be sent as voice letters with inexpensive shipping cost. The ends of the tape loop were fixed by an adhesive tape which also got a conductive top to prevent overwriting the same recording.

In 1967, an AT&T 10-minute long-distance call in the US was $5.50 without tax ($41, adjusted for inflation). A three-minute international call was $12. ($90, adjusted for inflation). [9]


HiPac was a successor of the PlayTape cartridge with some changes introduced in Japan in 1971 and disappearing soon afterwards. In children's toys for education, the HiPac had a small comeback in the mid-1970s.[10]


  1. ^ "Museum Of Obsolete Media". Retrieved 2017-05-27.
  2. ^ a b "". Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  3. ^ "PlayTape: 1967 - 1969". Retrieved 2016-05-18.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 6, 2011. Retrieved October 28, 2011.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ "PLAYTAPE - THE 2-TRACK ALTERNATIVE". 2011-05-14. Archived from the original on May 14, 2011. Retrieved 2016-05-18.CS1 maint: Unfit url (link)
  6. ^ "Inflation Calculator 2016". Retrieved 2016-05-19.
  7. ^ Fox, Hank (1968-10-12). "VW Dealers Into PlayTapes". Billboard. pp. 1, 25.
  8. ^ databits: Retro Design: Smith Corona Mail Call Cartridge Tape Recorder, YouTube, 4 September 2016
  9. ^ Techmoan: Voice Mail - 1967 Style: The MAIL CALL, YouTube, 21 September 2017
  10. ^ Techmoan: HiPac - The lost tape : Pioneer's forgotten 1970s cassette rival, YouTube, 29 September 2017

External links[edit]