A major line in the sand generation-wise has got to be the Sony Walkman. That is, I was already a grown-up when this first portable media player showed up. We oldesters relied on tape recorders, cassette recorders, and various large and bulky objects not designed for travel. I mean, we still had turntables and…gasp…record players! When we drove all we had was…the radio! At least, so I thought based on those folks around me. And so when I read Christopher Paul Curtis’s The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 I assumed that the True Tone AB-700 Ultra-Glide record player was something the dad jerry-rigged together, gave a fancy made-up name, and then stuck in their Brown Bomber car. Well, I’ve just discovered I’m wrong. Yesterday I was listening to the NPR show, Soundcheck, where they talked about a dashboard turntable that was invented in 1956 by Chrysler. Even after listening I thought the Ultra-Glide was made-up, but I’ve just googled it (ain’t google grand for stuff like this?) and discovered at this site that it was very much a real thing:
The Ultra Glide record player was sold in America from the late 1950s to approximately 1968. The Ultra Glide was typically installed on a car’s dashboard, playing records smoothly despite car vibrations. Ultra Glides were not usually sold with the car. Ultra Glides were packaged with a case for holding records. The device played only 45 rpm (revolutions per minute) records, a type initially created by RCA Victor. These 45s were the most popular record format of the 1960s as they were a convenient 7 inches wide and double sided.
Here’s a very rough video of a player from a different manufacturer from the same time in action: