What Do the Lear Jet and 8-Track Tapes Have in Common?

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Tony Maples Photography


Although you may never put these two together, there is, in fact, a connection between the Lear jet and 8-track tapes. That common thread is William (Bill) Powell Lear. Known as the inventor of his namesake jet, which practically every corporation in the U.S. wanted, and many a big-industry Texas company had, Bill Lear also invented eight-track tapes. It might not seem so out-of-the-ordinary that someone with the technical ability to develop a jet would also be able to develop a brand-new audio system that would revolutionize the music industry, until you learn that he was self-taught!

For a while, visitors to Dallas were treated to the first documented gallery of such music history in North Texas with the Eight Track Museum. It opened on Christmas Day in 2010 to great fanfare and a large following, much of which was from out-of-state. However, in 2015, the museum was shuttering due to development matters in the Deep Ellum arts district, and its owner wasn’t interested in reviving it elsewhere. So, much like the music collection it housed and the system on which it was played, the entity saw its demise like the technology that appeared to outlive its useful life.

Video: YouTube/OldCarMemories.com

In January 2019, OldCarMemories.com posted a video to their YouTube channel entitled “How The Car 8-Track Player Revolutionized Music Listening.” Covering everything from its inventor through its popularity, it captures in great detail how this system not only transformed our ability to enjoy music, but transformed the music industry itself. In the 1960s, the eight-track player was introduced into all the major auto manufacturers’ models, and our ability to pick and choose the kind of music we wanted to listen to grew exponentially.

Although this music system has long been replaced by various other technological advancements, eight-track tapes aren’t the dying breed you may have thought. Similar to vinyl, there are still a number of collectors who value this format for music sound and quality, and trade groups can be found in growing numbers across a number of social media channels. One such collector, nicknamed TrackerBob, has the largest collection of eight-track tapes in the world! As of November 2019, Bob Hiemenz of Quincy, Illinois, had 93,337 of them with everything from music through instructional tapes for John Deere tractors and even RVs! They may have outlived their useful life in terms of modern-day musical enjoyment, but these little numbers, invented by the same guy who brought us the Lear Jet, are some peoples raison d’être and a continued source of hours (perhaps weeks or months if you’re Bob Hiemenz) of enjoyment.