The Daily Ping

The 1st Ping was published on January 6, 2000.

October 15th, 2000

The Personics System

Following my recent topic on the Art of the Mix Tape, I remind you all of a wonderful, but short-lived, trend of the late-1980’s: the Personics tape.

Large chains like Sam Goody had large jukebox-looking machines set up that had hundreds of known and unknown singles on them that you could listen to sounds clips of and then make a custom cassette from the ones you liked. If I remember correctly, you could get 8 songs for about $10, and this included a custom cover and laser-printed labels. Though I only made one Personics tape (pictured above), this idea was the predecessor for the multitude of custom-CD services available today.

It worked really well, as you could combine singles you really liked with songs you may never have heard before (on mine I put a song by “White Boy Mike”… huh?). The important thing was that they were affordable and it wasn’t unreasonable to think a teenager would go into a store and spend the money on a custom Personics tape rather than on a full-length album. The problem with a lot of custom CD sites now is that you can expect to pay $12 plus shipping for 8 tracks.

A number of interesting sites exist that mention Sony’s short-lived Personics System:

  • Violation of Federal Security Laws: a rundown of a class action suit against MusicMaker.com. Check out summary item number 12.
  • Phones and Death: a weird page about telephone culture. The author discusses a Personics tape he made limited to songs related to telephones.
  • CD Changer Controller: a brief article about the Sony CDK-006 60 disc changer, which was apparently modified and used by the Personics system to run at 2.5 normal duplication speed. Includes some techie information.
  • Music and the Internet: a transcript of a discussion about the Internet’s role in music distribution. Oddly, where they talk about Personics, they mention that you could only use songs that were older than five years old and “out of print.” I know for sure that the songs I put on my tape were not that old, and in some cases were brand new.
  • “I’ll Take Verve, Space and Chumbawamba.”: a May 1998 article from the Industry Standard.
  • RedDotNet: CD manufacturing goes point-of-sale: an extremely in-depth September 1999 look at centralized content and user-controlled digital content.
  • Prices, pirets [sic] and Personics: an April 1998 article shunning the “death of the audio tape” talk. Not much of a mention of Personics, except in the title.
  • The Orphaned Puppy Collection: this guy apparently spent hundreds of dollars in one month alone on Personics tapes. He has more than 25 volumes worth of track listings here. Yikes.
  • Spunkyworld: message thread about Personics and custom CDs.
  • Slashdot: a March 1999 discussion about custom CDs — search on “Personics,” as it’s mentioned a number of times throughout the thread.
  • Make Your Own Compilation CD Site – CDUCTIVE.COM: another message from a thread, this time about CDuctive. From December 1997.
In case you’re curious, here’s what was on my Personics tape from 1990:

Side A

  1. Break the Grip of Shame… Paris
  2. The Originators… The Jaz and Jay-Z (way before he became a household name)
  3. We Don’t Play… Frescho & Miz
  4. Something to Rock To.. White Boy Mike

Side B

  1. Out of Control… Mikey D & the L.A. Posse
  2. Freak the Funk… Stezo
  3. Notorious… Kool Rock Jay and D.J. Slice
  4. The Devil Made Me Do It.. Paris
-ram

Posted in Television, Movies, and Music

Dave February 16, 2008, 12:20 am

I had mine made at Harmony Hut in Paramus 1989. The Promotion was when you bought a mix you were given for free “Up All Night” By Slayer.

Interestingly, the tapes stickers say TDK II Normal Bias tape but on the sleaves indicates High Bias. I worked at Goodys and the Hut and know tape, it looks like a TDK SA high bias. Doesn’t make much sense, sticker likely wrong. Tape still sound good.

Recorded on a Nachamichi.

Michele March 7, 2008, 6:09 am

I was trying to reach Tom Sharples via te link in his comment early on on this site but my email bounced back and i was wondering if anyone knows how to contact him.

There was also a Mark who left a comment here saying that he was a firmware engineer wit Personics

Any help getting in touch with either of these two men would be greatly appreciated. Or anyone else who happened to work there during the 1984 to 1989 period.

Thanks a bunch,
Michele

J April 11, 2008, 6:10 am

Michele – what type of information are you looking for from someone who worked at Personics?

Tom Sharples May 28, 2008, 5:56 am

Hi, I can be reached at tsharples@qorvus.com, or via the Linkedin system (which is how Michelle finally found me):

http://www.linkedin.com/profile?viewProfile=&key=2076933

This, btw, is a great tool for getting back in touch with ex-colleagues from Personics!

Tom S.

Frank Morrison July 14, 2008, 7:01 pm

I visited the US west coast area from England in 1990. Personics was in a music store in Los Angeles so I ordered a tape. I was so impressed I went back the next day and ordered two more. I still have one somewhere.

When I got back to England I told everyone what a great thing Personics was. I vacationed in Florida the following year with orders for several tapes from friends and family members in England, but Personics was nowhere to be found. I can still remember the feeling of disappointment because what seemed such a great thing hadn’t lasted.

So glad to find people who remember the system!

Thnairg November 12, 2008, 11:04 pm

Fun to see so much chat about that old Personics … boy, does it bring back memories! I bought one tape (at the Music+Plus in Chino, CA, in 1989 if memory serves), whereby I first stumbled upon what continues to be one of my favorite artists of all time, The Connells. As a result, Personics has never disappeared from my childhood memories. Great to hear tidbits about how it worked from the people who were behind it … thanks, Personics!

-T

MJ February 9, 2010, 8:38 am

I too worked there in the 80’s as a Premastering Engineer. It was a brilliant system that was, unfortunately doomed to become obsolete all too soon. The cassette was not fated to last forever as a format and, as we all know, you may now do all that Personics did on your home computer. It was a wonderful moment in time, though, as we struggled between mediums. I will never forget the excitement as we took delivery on the latest SCSI hard drives that would, when combined, finally let us store 1 gigabyte of data on our mastering computer.

Ron August 3, 2010, 8:50 pm

That has to be one of the best mixtape track listings ever. If you still have it would you be willing to sell it?

Tara June 23, 2011, 12:42 pm

I loved personics and would love to create my own peronal CD of my favorite songs again. Do you happen to know what companies are offering these services. Of course I would be willing to pay for the songs at their current rate. I just cannot adapt to downloading music into some tiny device that I cannot figure out how to use. The simplicity of cassettes and CD’s, especially when listening to them in my 14 year old car, (which has both options) remains one of my great pleasures, long drives to great music.

Jules Black January 11, 2012, 4:02 am

I too loved Personics. I was visiting New York from Australia and read about this new service at Sam Goody Stores. Off I went to Goody’s, got the Personics catalog, pored over it for hours back at the hotel and the next day went back to make my order. The Personic computer totted up the total playing time of my selections and from that worked out if a 60 or 90 minute cassette blank was needed. The computer also worked out how to balance the playing times up on each side. I paid my money, got to name the cassette and picked it up the next day. I repeated the process a few months later. After that I think the cassette was dying, Sam Goodys went broke I think and so did Personics itself, I think.

Tom Sharples August 5, 2012, 3:32 pm

Sadly I have to report that an old, dear friend and the former Chief Engineer of Personics , John Weitz, died on August 1st, 2012. John was a remarkable guy – brilliant electronics and firmware engineer, musician, and never boring. I will miss him.
http://www.crippenandflynnchapels.com/sitemaker/sites/Crippe1/obit.cgi?user=677978Weitz

MiztuhX January 23, 2020, 7:31 am

Today I remembered I had a Personics tape. I bought it at a Music + in Monterey Park, CA around 1988. I chose the title Santa Cruz Sounds because I wanted to go to college at UC Santa Cruz, and I imagined I would listen to the tape as I drove along the Pacific Coast Highway.

I don’t remember exactly which songs I had on it, or how many, but I know for sure I had “Don’t Dream (It’s Over) by Crowded House, “Cherish” by the Association, and “Taxi” by Harry Chapin. I’m not so sure if I had the Aretha Franklin song, “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman),” Carol King’s “It’s Too Late,” and/or Dionne Warwick’s “I Say a Little Prayer For You.” And maybe a song by Boston…?

I also remembered that I wanted to share it with a girl friend, a cute, Mexican-American girl named Lupita who was a folklorico dancer. I had known her for a couple of months. Since I had a double-cassette player at home, I decided I would record a copy of the Personics tape for myself and give her the original. I told her, however, that I would like to keep the insert because it was meaningful to me. She said she didn’t mind.

The strange thing is that, even though we would park on the hilly streets overlooking the lights of East L.A. in my red 1984 Nissan Pulsar, I don’t recall us ever listening together to the songs on that Personic cassette. But what does stand out in my memory is the shock I felt one day when Lupita just up and left. And even though I called her on the phone, she never returned my calls. I never knew what happened, or why she decided to move on. And I never went to UC Santa Cruz either.

So, that’s what I remember when I remember my Personics tape…

Personics Dude January 12, 2022, 11:30 pm

Wow, i cant believe this blog and comments go back 22 years!!! even one of the founders left a few entries! well, i decided to leave my entry as well for futures generations to read!!

I was introduced to personics by my dad. i saved up my money doing odd jobs when i was about 13 and headed to my local personics store. i had to wait in line, i remember!! the place was packed!! but it felt exciting!! i got a bynch of songs, and even one for my mom!! she asked me to buy a song for her, and i did. i remember there was still room in the b side, so i recorded songs from the radio on the empty tape.

i was disappointed when i went back a few years later and the place had turned into something else. i would still have my tape if it wasnt for an a-hole who broke into my car just a few years ago and took everything, even the 2 quarters i had in the coin compartment. yes, in the age of mp3 and smartphones i still carried my tapes around.

great to see other people here remember this aswesome system. till next time, my friends!!

ps. miztuhx, that story was sad… im so sorry…

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