High-Tech in the 1950′s: HighWay Hi-Fi – Where The Vinyl Meets The Road, Part 3

From Original Highway Hi-Fi Owner’s Brochure:

Highway-Hi-Fi-01YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU

Highway Hi-Fi is the startling new development for motoring enjoyment. It gives the motorist a delightful traveling companion that will entertain with music and the spoken word. Highway Hi-Fi, the most unique advancement since the automobile radio, enables the car-owner to listen to his favorite classical recording, the tops in popular music, drama, children’s stories — indeed, he can select from an across-the-board listing of world famous artists performing their specialties. The modern motorist may now program the entertainment he wants as easily as tuning in a radio.

HOW TO INCREASE YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE

After you have played and enjoyed the six records you receive with the Highway Hi-Fi instrument, you will want to add to your collection. In this brochure you will find a listing of the initial library from which you may choose, an array of the finest in hi-fi sound, a fitting complement to the Highway Hi-Fi record player.

Simply check off the ones you desire on the order blank enclosed and mail it. The records will be shipped prepaid if your check or money order accompanies your order. Postage and C.O.D. charges will be added to the price of the records if you prefer that method of shipment.

NOTE: For regular information on records to be added to the Highway Hi-Fi Library in the future, make certain that you fill out and mail the Registration Card enclosed.

HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR RECORDS

The records designed for the Highway Hi-Fi are precision-made of the finest materials known to the industry. Like any other quality product, reasonable care should be taken in their use. They should be handled by the edges and occasionally wiped clean with a soft, slightly damp cloth in the event that dust collects on their surfaces. When not in use, the record should always be kept in its protective sleeve and stored in the compartment under the machine or in the specially designed carrying case you can order separately to house your growing library.

Like any high fidelity instrument, the care of the stylus is of prime importance. Although the specially designed pick-up and arm permit only a two-gram stylus or needle pressure against the record, and wear, therefore, is negligible, you may wish to replace the stylus after long use or accidental damage. They may be ordered from the same source as the records for $2.50 each.

The mail orders went to New York, where they were handled by Columbia. Did CBS-Columbia see this as a new format with which to carve out a market share? Whatever, it obviously didn’t work out, as the original Highway Hi-Fi only lasted through the 1958 model year — though it was already practically dead in ’57, thanks in part to high warranty service costs. From our current perspective, we can also see it as a software format incompatibility problem. You were limited solely to the releases made available by Columbia, and as you can see in the listings, these were somewhat limited. I’m no expert on what was available to them, but I’m guessing that many of these releases were remasters from Columbia’s back-catalog. Note the complete absence of serious jazz, rhythm & blues, country and rock ‘n’ roll. This limited editorial view could not have helped. Mr. Greenfield provides more post-mortem.

Read Part 4

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