Dodge Phonograph - Like a record, baby.

You may have heard that, at one time, you could get a 16-RPM turntable installed in your car as a factory option. Here's a page from a Popular Mechanics preview of the new 1956 models from (among others) Dodge, showing their under-dash record player. Does it still count as a 16-RPM record when the car you're driving is spinning at an additional 2 RPM into a ditch because you were dicking around with the 16-RPM record while driving?

The unit was designed for 16-RPM records? What were those? They were 7" in diameter, which was the same size as a 45. However, the 16-RPM standard was generally monaural, and the slower playback speed of the program material brought with it the additional downside of decreased sound quality. This brings into question to Chrysler's name for the feature, "Highway Hi-Fi". Let's not forget that "Hi-Fi" is supposed to mean "high fidelity". Inferior quality, mono audio. That's some good marketing. Name it after the very thing it's farthest from.

More here from Wikipedia...

Some recording, (sic) such as books for the blind, were pressed at 16 2⁄3 rpm. Prestige Records released jazz records in this format in the late 1950s, for example two of their Miles Davis albums were paired together in this format. Peter Goldmark, the man who developed the 33 1⁄3 rpm record, developed the Highway Hi-Fi 16 2⁄3 rpm record to be played in Chrysler automobiles, but poor performance of the system and weak implementation by Chrysler and Columbia led to the demise of the 16 2⁄3 rpm records. Subsequently, the 16 2⁄3 rpm speed was used for narrated publications for the blind and visually impaired, and were never widely commercially available, although it was common to see new turntable models with a 16 rpm speed setting produced as late as the 1970s.

So, a format that found its biggest audience in the blind, offered as a feature in cars. No irony there. Maybe they should have marketed their Highway Hi-Fi to the hearing impaired, too? Wooooo! Take that, Chrysler of 1956!

According to Popular Mechanics according to Chrysler, you could change the record "without taking your eyes off the road". This may sound pretty stupid, but surely no less stupid than typing a quick SMS while driving, right?

Click for big.


Robato said...

According to a friend of mine, whose father sold Chryslers in Ottawa back in the day, a kid named Paul Anka bought a car with one of these even though he had no driver's license. He wanted to listen to "Diana" while being driven around town.
Urban legend alert: I don't think there was a Highway Hi Fi pressing of "Diana", but maybe there was a firmware update so you could play regular 45s on it.

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