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Be grateful you never used a car record player

Phil Edwards is a senior producer for the Vox video team.

The next time you complain about spotty streaming audio, remember that your options could be much worse.

Consider the car record player:

A woman uses her car record player.

A woman uses her car record player.

Fox Photos/Getty Images

These car record players were produced by a number of companies: Consumer Reports provides an overview that includes units by Chrysler, Norelco, and RCA Victor. The Philips Auto-Mignon was another popular model. All of them reflected the scarce options for motorists looking to listen to their own music while on the road.

As unusual as they look, these players could work surprisingly well. Often purchased separately from the car itself, they plugged into an existing stereo system and used different techniques to keep the sound stable. Consumer Reports said the stylus that ran in the record's grooves had to press relatively hard, and that eventually wore down records. Another model suffered from speed issues, turning every record into a hyperspeed Alvin and the Chipmunks–style tune. In addition to the firm stylus, springs helped keep the music playing as well — this video shows a Philips Auto-Mignon at work, and thanks to its back springs, it's stable even after a good shake.

By the mid-'60s, the four-track and eight-track were starting to take over in the United States, and compact cassettes became ubiquitous after that. From there, CD players emerged in the '80s and '90s, followed by today's digital music revolution. Nobody knows what's next, but whatever it is will probably make our current technology look as awkward as a record player in a car.