Friday, June 13, 2008

'Cardtalk' - - minimalist record player or torture device?

Honestly, I'm not sure what the point is to this little oddity...

Have you seen one before?

(ADDENDUM: Many have! See below, and see comments on this post for great info and recollections!)

The 'Cardtalk' is essentially a folded piece of cardboard with a nail attached.

You are supposed to use it to play spoken-word 78s.

I found it mixed in with a nice batch of old 78 RPM Rock & Roll records given to me by my friend Ripspix.

He had no clue either. It had come to him similarly, mixed in with a batch of stuff he'd bought.

My best guess is that it was meant to be a novelty item, sort of a science experiment.

I can't imagine that this was intended to be a truly useful piece of sound equipment.

I'll assume that it first appeared a few years following the demise of the 78 RPM format, perhaps early '60's, when the old records were still around but were cast off, outdated items, like 8-tracks and
Beta videocassettes would be in years to follow.

To operate, you'd place your 78 RPM record on the evil-looking little spindle, then sort of tent the folded cardboard over it so the clipped on nail 'stylus' could rest in the grooves of the record.

Wait, it gets better. You are also instructed to gouge or burn a hole in the label of the record, so that you can place the end of a pencil or "pointed stick" in it.

By pushing the pencil you begin spinning the record by hand, trying (I guess) to approximate 78 revolutions per minute.

Perhaps at some point I'll go beyond setting up a visual demo of The Cardtalk in action for the purpose of photographic documentation.

Truth is I couldn't bring myself to really try it all out.

I'm not yet prepared to hear the wonders of
high-fidelity Cardtalk sound reproduction.

I think perhaps that The Cardtalk may have been manufactured as a means of torturing old records.

- - Or more to the point - - of torturing old record collectors.

ADDENDUM, 6/16/08:
PLEASE see comments on this post for helpful information and insights, including the wide use of 'Cardtalk' devices by missionaries to help educate and spread gospel in locations of the world without electricity. Thanks to the folks in the know for sharing their memories!


Anonymous said...

I have one of these that actually came with some records of religious talks. I think that mine was originally used by missionaries in places where there was little access to electricity.

I've used on some cheap old vinyl that I wasn't interested in keeping. It's an interesting little device. The cardboard does actually provide some resonance. But it's truly a pain to try to keep the disc spinning at a relatively constant rate.

Jukeboxmafia said...

Ha, interesting. I saw a similar device at The Internet Museum of Flexi Records - here:

Anonymous said...

You can see this in operation at:

"king of Jingaling" is absolutely right- it was used by missionaries- and the documentary linked here- "The Tailenders"- is really fascinating stuff.

Thombeau said...

How completely odd. If this is how missionaries spread their "gospel" than the world is indeed going to hell in a handbasket!

Devil Dick said...


Anonymous said...

Went to presentation at Wycliffe Bible Translators [SIL] today. This device shown to show the kids how far audio technology has come. In early years, it was used to promote reading classes. Adults would attend 10 reading classes to earn one card talk record. The presenter said the adults loved the 'sound word' so much they would memorize whole sections of the bible by listening over and over again. Of course this was in villages that were not inundated with technology like electricity and cassette recorders. :-)

Anonymous said...

I had the opportunity about 8 years ago to go with a group of people to Paraguay with the intent of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ ala protestant evangelical USA. Somehow we had one of these players along with a gospel record in a couple of the native languages found in the country of Paraguay. The people were lovely and very appreciative of our efforts in being family to them. We did use the record player and it was fascinating to see how effective it was in showing the folks that we cared enough to spin that disk and look like idiots just because we cared about them personally. I would love to find another player now just as a reminder of how very alike we humans are even without a common language.

God Bless You All!

David Jensen said...

This was mainly used by Missionaries. And still used today. If you would like to sell it or donate it for this lem me know.

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