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A box by any other name
November 3, 2010 1:17 AM   Subscribe

A compendium of 80's boom boxes which, of course, in those days went by a different name

This and other fun tape and radio links at Vintage Radio
posted by victors (39 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
When I was about seven, I got yelled at by my mom for calling mine a 'Harlem briefcase'. Its offensiveness had to be explained to me. Some things never change.
posted by item at 1:25 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


A large, portable, radio cassette player, measuring about 1.5 m wide and 1.0 m high.

That's one tall ass radio.
posted by IvoShandor at 1:27 AM on November 3, 2010


Boombox (ft. Julian Casablanca).

If you're interested in boomboxes, there's this here recent post on MetaFilter to sink your teeth into. Mmm yummy boomboxes.
posted by WalterMitty at 1:27 AM on November 3, 2010


I don't know what we called them at first. I just always had one. Then, 1981, I'm traveling with mine through the mean streets of suburban Toronto and a friend's eleven year old sister says, "Hey, cool ghetto blaster." Then she goes back to skipping rope with her friend.
posted by philip-random at 1:40 AM on November 3, 2010


I was trying to remember the model number of my trusty Panasonic, which served me faithfully and well until it was stolen in 1992.

Instead, I found this and this, which gave me no answers but look at all those boomboxes.
posted by louche mustachio at 1:46 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nice to have them collected like this. The design and interface, however... not so nice.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:28 AM on November 3, 2010


A friend of mine had one in the 80s. He walked the streets with it turned up to full at about the time that Walkmans had saturated everyone elses bit of market. It took me years after that before I could play music at any kind of volume without feeling like a complete arsehole.
posted by vbfg at 2:59 AM on November 3, 2010


epic
posted by parallax7d at 3:20 AM on November 3, 2010


We need more electronics with big paddle switches and tons of kinetic feedback.

As it stands, you just touch a touchscreen on your ipod, and music comes out. That's almost a bit too futuristic.

Take me back to the days where you slam down a huge switch, hear a click, and some mechanical stuff happens for a quarter of a second before you hear music.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:17 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also, this is the best application. Yes, it's been posted on the front page recently, but I don't care.
posted by mccarty.tim at 4:18 AM on November 3, 2010


Can't remember what make and model it was but I remember mine had detachable speakers (which caused great feedback at times) and ate up batteries at an alarming rate so it tended to stay in my bedroom (ah the simple illicit thrills of taping tracks off the radio...)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:20 AM on November 3, 2010


I had an enormous one that had two tape decks and a short wave receiver. Music from Jamaica! Number stations! White Snake!
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 4:28 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


What mccarty.tim said.

I really can't get on with my iPod. It's just such a bitty little thing, with bitty little controls and bitty (ha ha) little sounds. Every time I have a few drinks with friends and I slap some vinyl on we all just sit for a few seconds as that rich throb washes over us and we go, "Shit. Why do we put up with music that just doesn't sound as good as it used to?"

And yeah, it's just so satisfying to have proper controls; switches and knobs and levers. Using old kit reminds you that listening to music is - or used to be - about more than just listening to music, just as a nice meal is about more than dealing with hunger. Easy portability and the ability to readily access an entire music collection at any time is cool, but it isn't that important, when you think about it.

How often do we really need that? Sure, I can put my collection on shuffle and hear surprising things and get a lot of variety but honestly, that isn't really the way I listen to music. It isn't really the way I want to listen to music. It smacks of background music, and I don't care for that. I like to pay attention to music when I listen to it. I like to decide what mood I'm in, choose music to suit and consciously put it on. I tend to think, "Right, I need to hear side two of this particular album now" or "I fancy that one mix I lovingly created a couple of months ago."

It's an old-fashioned attitude, and it is best indulged on old-fashioned gear.
posted by Decani at 4:33 AM on November 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


Took a lot of searching, but I found mine!

This is before the time of the monster boomboxes, but as a nine year old, I thought this thing was the shit! It had the Automatic Music Select System, which allowed you to skip songs forward and backward and it worked almost half the time!

Sorry, but I really miss that thing.
posted by orme at 4:41 AM on November 3, 2010


There's a guy who rides up and down Brighton & Comm ave in the Allston area of Boston with a boombox attached to his bike, blasting 80's and early 90's hip-hop wherever he goes. I swear it makes my day when I see him.
posted by raztaj at 5:05 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


If anyone forgets, they sounded like utter ass.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:07 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Music from Jamaica! Number stations! White Snake!
posted by joe lisboa at 5:20 AM on November 3, 2010 [3 favorites]


Hey orme, man, it's a bummer you lost that. I'll pour a forty for it.
posted by oddman at 5:51 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


This one with an embedded TV was the kind I went looking for, but some other oddities: this Casio with a built-in keyboard, this Yorx with THREE cassette decks. "Yo dawg, I herd you like tapes, so we put a tape in your tape player so you can play your tapes while you tape your tapes." I'm sure every mixtape kiddie on the planet would have creamed for one of those back then.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 5:59 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had one when I was 13. Used to blast the neighborhood with Confunkshun, the soundtrack from "All That Jazz", and the Blues Brothers first album. Man, I was cooooool!
posted by slipperystar at 6:27 AM on November 3, 2010


I need twenty D batteries!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:13 AM on November 3, 2010 [5 favorites]


If anyone forgets, they sounded like utter ass.

But to the average listener? They are listening to the music, not the sound quality. Not everyone who loves music is an audiophile.
posted by sunshinesky at 7:25 AM on November 3, 2010


i had a mediocre boombox in the early 80s, but then, when i emerged as a punk rock hipster in the mid 80s, i realized that a key punk rock hipster accessory was a beat-to-shit and spray-painted boombox. and wow, that website's ui made my soul hurt.
posted by rude.boy at 7:36 AM on November 3, 2010


The design and interface, however... not so nice.

WRONG. So, so wrong. Fundamentally wrong. Ghetto blasters had knobs and dials and toggle switches and push buttons and lights. That's all you need. Knobs, dials, toggle switches, push buttons, and lights. Fucking Apple has convinced people that one giant click wheel is going to solve your problems, and sure it looks pretty but you think that's a useful design? Hell no! What do you think they use on the Space Shuttle, one of the most complex contraptions in the history of mankind? I'll tell you what: knobs, dials, toggles, push buttons and lights. Goddamned right.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:39 AM on November 3, 2010


Civil_Disobedient - i'm pretty sure that flapjax at midnite was referring to the design and interface of the site itself. and i agree. pretty painful.
posted by rude.boy at 7:49 AM on November 3, 2010


I had one of these when I was probably 8 or 9. Christmas present; only needed 8 batteries but I thought it was awesome. I, uh, mostly used it to listen to Peter, Paul, and Mary. And I wasn't allowed to take it outside. And it had pink accents. Good times.
posted by SMPA at 7:53 AM on November 3, 2010


I want the little "jetto blahster" Björk was singing about in "There's More to Life Than This," so I could nick a boat and sneak off to this island.
posted by sonascope at 8:12 AM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to own a JVC that was one of the few with Dolby NR, and it sounded quite good, thank you.
posted by rfs at 8:19 AM on November 3, 2010


One of these and one of these facing each other were my very first multi-track recorder...bass and drums curtesy of one of these
posted by numbskeleton at 8:25 AM on November 3, 2010


i'm pretty sure that flapjax at midnite was referring to the design and interface of the site itself

My apologies.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:53 AM on November 3, 2010


they sounded like utter ass.


Not all of them.

This was some tasty schizzle.

The PC-R55C was a top-of-the-line JVC with a gloriously futuristic and complex LCD control panel and full solenoid controls, detachable wooden speakers and a main body that could split between the tuner/tape deck components like a bookshelf stereo. I used to talk students into buying one instead of a bottom-line component stereo system for their dorm, and they'd get cleaner sound, a far, far better tape deck and way more room on the shelf for $100 less.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:12 AM on November 3, 2010


Ah, borked that link - this is where I was pointing to.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:14 AM on November 3, 2010


Purchased second-hand in the UK in about 1985, I had me this one. Suck it.
posted by genghis at 3:31 PM on November 3, 2010


I had the same one Lloyd Dobler had. It had detachable speakers; I think it was a Panasonic. Within the first year I think I broke the top of the antenna off; later one of the cassette door hinges broke and the door came off. Still worked fine for U2's War at high volume for many years and Peter Gabriel, natch.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:42 PM on November 3, 2010


Twenty.... C Energizers?
D, MOTHERFUCKER, D! Learn to speak English!
How many you take?
Twenty. Mother. Fucker. TWENTY.

posted by porn in the woods at 7:19 PM on November 3, 2010


When I was about seven, I got yelled at by my mom for calling mine a 'Harlem briefcase'. Its offensiveness had to be explained to me. Some things never change.

Unloading from our band van after a road trip to play NYC back in the mid-80s, our sound man handed me my boom box that I'd brought along, with the words, "One negro environment enhancement unit."
posted by Philofacts at 2:52 AM on November 4, 2010


"Something we're making for the Americans. It's called a ghetto blaster!"
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 7:49 AM on November 5, 2010


Just found out my boom box is still going strong... ended up in my dad's garage where he listens to it sometimes while working out there
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:18 AM on November 16, 2010


i'm pretty sure that flapjax at midnite was referring to the design and interface of the site itself

Yup, that indeed I was.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:22 AM on November 16, 2010


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