Astraltune: World's First Portable Tape Deck

Astraltune: World's First Portable Tape Deck

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Astraltune: World's First Portable Tape Deck

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Astraltune

Long before the Sony Walkman, portable CD players and the iPod there was Astraltune. Aimed primarily at skiers who wanted to listen to music on the slopes, the device debuted on September 1, 1975 and was immediately adopted by the Freestyle skiers – especially those who needed to choreograph their ballet routines to music.

So what exactly was the Astraltune Stereopack? On the company’s Trademark application, it is described as “a portable stereophonic tape deck, headphones and battery sold as a unit and mounted in a pack.” This description is pretty accurate. Basically, the Astraltune was an automotive-style stereo cassette deck, mounted in a hard plastic case along with an array of five General Electric NI-CAD rechargeable batteries. The deck slid into a padded nylon pack, which had two shoulder straps and a waist strap and was meant to be worn against your chest. A velcro flap covered the top of the pack, which when opened gave access to the cassette door, eject/fast-forward buttons, and the volume, tone and balance controls. The orange Sennheiser headphones supplied with the unit were meant to hang below the neck, rather than over the top of the head as with most headphones of the time. The headphones connected to the deck via a 1/4-inch headphone jack at the base of the deck. The whole unit weighed in at about 3.5 pounds, and measures about 8 inches tall, 5 inches wide, and 3 inches thick. The batteries could power the unit for about 5 hours.

“Most people think Sony’s Walkman paved the way to hearing loss for a generation of teenagers, but the original portable music player actually pre-dated the Walkman by almost five years. The Astraltune Stereopack debuted in Reno, Nevada in 1975 and it was aimed at freestyle skiers who wanted to groove out to their favorite tunes while hitting the slopes. It was a bulky 3-pound unit worn in a sack mounted on the chest, but it was the first time you had a power source, a cassette player and a headphone output in the same unit. The story doesn’t have a happy end though – the inventor(s) never patented their invention and today very few people remember it; Sony went on to dominate the personal stereo market for well over 15 years.”- justabuzz

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