Astraltune Stereopack Information Page
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Welcome to my information page about the Astraltune Stereopack portable cassette player. I searched the web for information about the Astraltune, and I was shocked and saddened to find almost no information about it. This groundbreaking invention was the original portable music player, debuting in 1975 and pre-dated the Sony Walkman by almost five years. I put this page together in the hopes that it would not be forgotten to history. For the record, 'Astraltune' is the name - despite it often being remembered as Astral Tune, Astral Tunes, Astraltunes, Astral Tuner, or Astraltuner.

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The Market

In the mid-1970s, the daredevil exhibitions of 'Hot Dog' skiers were evolving into the professional sport of freestyle skiing. It was arounf this time - September 1975 - that the Astraltune surfaced in Reno Nevada . It was the brainchild of Roy Bowers and was marketed to skiers who wanted to listen to music on the slopes. It immediately adopted by the freestyle skiers; especially those who needed to choreograph their ballet routines to music.

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The Technology

So what exactly was the Astraltune Stereopack? On the company's Trademark application, it is described as "a portable stereophonic tape deck, headphones and battery sold as a unit and mounted in a pack." This description is pretty accurate. Basically, the Astraltune was an automotive-style stereo cassette deck, mounted in a hard plastic case along with an array of five General Electric NI-CAD rechargeable batteries.

The deck slid into a padded nylon pack, which had two shoulder straps and a waist strap and was meant to be worn against your chest. A velcro flap covered the top of the pack, which when opened gave access to the cassette door, eject/fast-forward buttons, and the volume, tone and balance controls. The whole unit weighed in at about 3.5 pounds, and measures about 8 inches tall, 5 inches wide, and 3 inches thick. The batteries could power the unit for about 5 hours.

The orange Sennheiser headphones supplied with the unit were meant to hang below the neck, rather than over the top of the head as with most headphones of the time. The headphones connected to the deck via a 1/4-inch headphone jack at the base of the deck.

Optional accessories included a home adapter, a car adapter, a speaker adapter, over-the-head headphones, and a twin headphone adapter.

There were three generations of the Astraltune. The first generation was a car stereo unit made by Sanyo (the FTC1 model), and the second generation was a different car stereo manufactured for the company by Yams Electronics. In the early 1980s, the third generation of the Astraltune appeared. It featured a smaller, lighter tape player with a flip-top cover for the controls. It also included an AM-FM radio and a metal tape setting.

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What Happened?

In 1977 a german inventor named Andreas Pavel registered several patents for a portable music device called the Stereobelt. In March 1979, Sony launched the now-famous Walkman (known early on in some markets as the Soundabout or Stowaway) and the device went on to sell more than 200 million units in its first two years. After negotiations, Pavel initially accepted royalties from Sony, but sued the company when they would not acknowledge him as the originator of the device. The suits dragged on until 2004, when Pavel and Sony agreed to a settlement worth several million Euros.

Unfortunately Astraltune was not so lucky. Although they applied for a trademark for Astraltune in 1978 and StereoPack in 1980, they apparently did not patent their ideas and their attempts to collect royalties from Sony were rejected. Astraltune continued to produce their portable stereo into the 1980s, but by 1985 their trademarks were canceled when the company failed to renew them - presumably because they were out of business.

In his 2006 book The Entrepeneu's Strategy Guide, author Tom Cannon cites Astraltune as an example how a company can lose a brilliant product by lacking patent protection:

'In the mid-l970's, an inventor started selling his new product, Astraltune, to skiers in the Rocky Mountains. Astraltune was a personal stereo with headphones. The inventor did not apply for a patent, and his claim to the idea ran out after one year. In 1979 the Sony Corporation introduced its “Walkman” to the market for a price of $l99.95. One explanation for developing the Walkman is that Akio Morita, then the Sony president, wanted to listen to music while playing tennis. Another is that during a factory visit a worker told him he wanted tunes to listen to while on the assembly line. A third version from Morita’s autobiography is that his co-founder of the company, Masaro lbuka, responded to Akio’s desires by having an engineer modify Sony’s earlier product, Pressman, that was being sold to reporters as a tape recorder. They removed its recording appliance and speaker, and added a stereo amplifier and light headphones with sponge earpieces. The Astraltune inventor registered claims, but was never awarded any royalties. It is unclear whether Sony ever knew of its existence. His missed opportunity was staggering!'

The last activity I can find for Astraltune was an April 1998 Equipment Authorization application with the FCC's Office of Engineering and Technology. There also was a UK firm called Astraltune Limited (Reg. No. 01550327) located at 5 Balfour Place, Mount Street, London, but I am not sure this was company was related in any way.


Got More Information?

If you have additional information about the Astraltune Stereopack, I would love to hear from you. I have a Stereopack and the nylon pack, but I would love to get access to the original packaging, manuals, accessories, marketing materials, advertising, and similar information. If you would like to help, contact me here:

The email address is not a link, so you'll have to type it yourself. Blame the spammers!

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