Panasonic RE8080 - Mechless car audio, 1972 style.

I hate my car's head unit (radio). There's a USB plug in the armrest, so you can listen to MP3s stored on a flash drive. Fantastic. However, the radio's software randomly chooses to be unable to read the flash drive. Repeated attempts are generally fruitless until I power cycle the radio (turn the power off and on) by turning the whole car on and off. Then, chances are better it will read the MP3s. Having these arguments with my car's stereo is not handy while driving. How spoiled am I? Look what was new and exciting back in 1972.
We've reported on Panasonic's clunky, modular audio systems before. But this ad's in color! Presumably with the intent of saving you the expense of buying a tape transport mechanism for your car AND house, Panasonic hit upon the complicated idea of pulling your 8-track player out of your home stereo and shoving it into your car's dash. The amazing convenience being that you can continue listening to the tape from where you left off.

As with the other Panasonic stereo linked above in our older post, there was a separate adapter to carry around in case you wanted to listen to a cassette. Then there were the many cassettes to lug around. Good times.

In the Seventies, Eighties and Nineties, car stereos were big ticket items, likely to be stolen if you left your car without an armed guard for a few minutes. Those days are kind of gone now. For one thing, factory radios have gotten better. Most people don't really have a great need to replace their car's original stereo. Good thing, too, because stereos are routinely combined with heating and ventilation controls, and buried behind stylized dashboard panels. Replacing a radio is not as simple as it once was. All of this makes radio theft not only harder, but also less worthwhile.
This will look great in my spaceship.
Even if you do choose to replace your car's head unit, you're likely to wind up with an overstyled thing that matches the rest of your car's interior about as well as a tennis shoe stuffed into the dash. Electronics manufacturers seem bent on capturing the snapperhead "fast & furious" segment of the market, to the exclusion of all those who want something that blends in with the rest of the instrumentation. There doesn't seem to be any company losing sleep over the problem of "stealthy" aftermarket car stereos. If they were really thinking, manufacturers would offer each model in your choice of face color and backlight color. Some stereos do allow you to adjust the backlighting color in infinite variety. However, there aren't many silver stereos, and that's a very common color found in cars. I don't know anybody with a shiny black dash board.

If I do replace my stereo, it'll probably be one of the "mechless" designs. These are basically a radio with no moving parts inside. It's an amplifier and tuner, into which you plug your various portable devices for content. This Panasonic stereo from 1972 is sort of mechless... when you pull the mechanism out to take it in the house to finish listening to The Captain & Tenille.

So, even with my intermittent USB problem, my car's iPod connector works just fine. I rarely use it, partly because my commute is often filled with podcasts played from a non-Apple device, but also because I don't like the hassle of fumbling around with the iPod cable in my arm rest. And yet, the fun of connecting and reconnecting stereo components is exactly what Panasonic is showcasing in this ad. I have something a million times better than this Panasonic stereo but I can't be bothered to plug in a cable. What a jerk.

My old car had an aftermarket stereo with Bluetooth streaming, so I could listen to music or podcasts magically sent through thin air from my phone to the car's head unit. I miss that. In a few years I'll probably look back on Bluetooth streaming as barbaric, because of the drudgery of pairing the phone with the stereo. "Ow, my pairing finger is all worn out!" I'll moan. What a baby. I already hate my spoiled, lazy future self.

Click for big.


Craig F. said...

I've noticed that I have exactly a 38 percent success rate pairing an iPhone with a bluetooth-enabled car stereo.

I am flummoxed at the idea that something that works 62 percent of the time is considered acceptable in a modern automobile. What other devices in my car would I accept with a 38 percent failure rate? The ignition switch? Headlamps? Heat?

I'd be infuriated if my goddamned dome light only worked 62 percent of the time.

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

I know what you mean. I think we can look forward to wireless connectivity maturing into something more useful and less infuriating.

Ironically, I used to rant about the unreliability of computers using a very similar argument. "What if my car was as flaky as my computer? What would happen if, one trip out of ten, your car just suffered 'an unrecoverable error' and just froze up?"

Thanks for commenting, Craigf!


Craig F. said...

BTW ("By the way") here's a short video I did for the Boston Globe on Ford's SYNC system, which sucks royal ass:


PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

BAH ha ha ha ha ha! Look at you on the FaceTube! Nice report, Craigf! Thankfully my Hyundai has very nice hotness and loudness knobs.

Check your Gmail.


PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

BTW, "BAH hah hah" was a laugh of surprise and amusement, not derision.

Post a Comment