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Format flashback fun with the Mighty Tiny toy record player and the Mini 8

Forgotten Format Flashback! Goldmine takes a look at Ohio Arts’ Mighty Tiny toy record player and the Mini-8.

By Dave Thompson

To celebrate the recent revival of both cassettes and, slowly, 8-Tracks in the world of collectible modern releases, Goldmine goes up to the attic to unearth a few more “forgotten formats” that we might well be seeing in a box set soon.

Ohio Arts’ The Mighty Tiny Toy Record Player

Ohio Arts’ The Mighty Tiny Toy Record Player

Surely one of the magnificently named devices of all, Ohio Arts’ The Mighty Tiny Toy Record Player was marketed during the 1950s, a fascinating (if somewhat unreliable) miniature turntable with a built-in speaker, designed to play correspondingly minute (2-inch) records. And surely, at least one person reading this surely got their start in collecting with one.

Such artists as the Musical Squares, the Harmonettes and Amy Wilson and Her Guitar headed the “popular” line of recordings; there were also series of world music and children’s’ songs, all sold in packets of four. Nothing to set the modern collector’s heart bearing fast. But admit it, if you found a few, and maybe a Tiny to play them on, could you resist?

Sticking with micro-technology, fast forward a decade in time and spare a thought for the Mini-8. A little known variant on the 8-Track, the mini-8 was introduced in 1969 by Lear Jet and manufactured by Ampex. It was intended to compete with the then-newly-emergent cassette tape, whose runaway popularity was making serious in-roads into the traditional 8-Track market.

Compatible with existing 8-Track players, the tapes’ selling point was that they could be folded in half to more or less the size of a cassette – whose own advantage over the 8-Track was that they required so much less storage room. The working mechanisms and the tape itself were housed in the front half of the cartridge; the other half-folded over to create its own protective box.

The disadvantage was the bugbear of length. Mini-8s could hold no more than 30 minutes of music, rendering them ideal for duplicating singles or EPs, but no competition for any longer format. Accordingly, the Mini 8 concentrated on various artist compilations.

It is uncertain how many of these collections were manufactured during the Mini-8s brief lifespan. The 1970 Ampex catalog lists 150 separate titles, but there were certainly others released before the format was finally abandoned later in the year. However, the nature of the tapes’ content has seriously retarded collector interest, condemning Mini-8s to a sparsely populated backwater where only serious tape enthusiasts dare to venture.