National Whatever Day: April 11th

There are technically three National Whatever Days but I've added one more for a special circumstance: Eight Track Tape Day, Barbershop Quartet Day, National Submarine Day, and for any Aggies getting their Aggie Ring... Aggie Ring Day!

Eight Track Tape Day
For those of you too young to know what an Eight Track tape is, the Eight Track tape recording system was popular from 1965 to the late 1970s. While today it has become an icon of obsolescence, it was a great commercial success and paved the way for all sorts of innovations in portable listening. The eight track tape consisted of an endless loop of standard 1/4-inch magnetic tape, housed in a plastic cartridge.

On the tape were eight parallel soundtracks, corresponding to four stereo programs. For many people old enough to have owned an eight track system, it is a technology associated with the automobile and in-car listening. Ironically, however, it was first developed not by the auto industry, but by a leading aircraft manufacturer: the Learjet Corporation.

It was a further development of the similar Stereo-Pak four-track cartridge created by Earl "Madman" Muntz. A later quadraphonic version of the format was announced by RCA in April 1970 and first known as Quad-8, then later changed to just Q8.

The Compact Cassette, in appearance and function essentially a miniaturized version of the RCA cartridge, was introduced by the Dutch firm Philips in Europe in 1963, and in the U.S. in late 1964, but it took several years to achieve significant market penetration. Initially, the audio quality was too low to recommend it as a promising medium for music-listening. It seemed to be just another convenient new format for dictation systems and small battery-powered portable units designed for recording speech but not music.

By the late 1960s, however, audio quality had been improved enough to make music reproduction acceptable to listeners willing to tolerate a limited frequency range and substantial background hiss in exchange for convenience and economy, and by 1968 AC-powered stereo cassette decks were available. Sony introduced a battery-powered portable stereo cassette recorder in 1970. After the introduction of Dolby B noise reduction for cassettes in the early 1970s, and the advent of new tape coatings that greatly improved the high-frequency response, the Compact Cassette finally became a respectable and increasingly popular medium for listening to music, both on the road and at home.

Barbershop Quartet Day
Barbershop Quartets may be one of the cutest things around. They aren't near as popular anymore, maybe because most salons just play the radio, but these guys (typically older gentleman) can really belt it out!

Barbershop vocal harmony, as codified during the barbershop revival era (1930s–present), is a style of a cappella, or unaccompanied vocal music, characterized by consonant four-part chords for every melody note in a predominantly homophonic texture. Each of the four parts has its own role: generally, the lead sings the melody, the tenor harmonizes above the melody, the bass sings the lowest harmonizing notes, and the baritone completes the chord, usually below the lead. The melody is not usually sung by the tenor or baritone, except for an infrequent note or two to avoid awkward voice leading, in tags or codas, or when some appropriate embellishment can be created. Occasional passages may be sung by fewer than four voice parts.

According to the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS), "Barbershop music features songs with understandable lyrics and easily singable melodies, whose tones clearly define a tonal center and imply major and minor chords and barbershop (dominant and secondary dominant) seventh chords that resolve primarily around the circle of fifths, while making frequent use of other resolutions." Slower barbershop songs, especially ballads, often eschew a continuous beat, and notes are often held (or sped up) ad libitum.

Barbershop singing is performed both by men's and women's groups; the elements of the barbershop style and the names of the voice parts are the same for both (although women's groups generally have a different standing arrangement than their male counterparts).

National Submarine Day
April 11 is commemorated by the United States submarine community as Submarine Day, the anniversary of April 11, 1900 when the American Government purchased its first commissioned submarine, the USS Holland.

A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation underwater. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability. The term submarine most commonly refers to a large crewed autonomous vessel. However, historically or colloquially, submarine can also refer to medium-sized or smaller vessels (midget submarines, wet subs), remotely operated vehicles or robots.

The adjective submarine, in terms such as submarine cable, means “under the sea”. The noun submarine evolved as a shortened form of submarine boat (and is often further shortened to sub). For reasons of naval tradition submarines are usually referred to as “boats” rather than as “ships”, regardless of their size.

Aggie Ring Day
A bonus day for any Aggies out there, today is Aggie Ring Day for the Spring semester!

According to the Aggie Network website, "Design of the class ring at A&M is as deep in symbolism as it is in tradition. The shield on the top of the ring symbolizes protection of the good reputation of the alma mater. The 13 stripes in the shield refer to the 13 original states and symbolize the intense patriotism of graduates and undergraduates of A&M. The five stars in the shield refer to phases of development of the student; mind or intellect, body, spiritual attainment, emotional poise, and integrity of character. The eagle is symbolic of agility and power, and ability to reach great heights as ambitions.

"One side of the ring symbolizes the seal of the State of Texas authorized by the constitution of 1845. The five-pointed star is encircled with a wreath of olive or laurel leaves symbolizing achievement and a desire for peace and live-oak leaves symbolizing the strength to fight. They are joined at the bottom by a circled ribbon to show the necessity of joining these two traits to accomplish one’s ambition to serve.

"The other side with its ancient cannon, saber, and rifle symbolizes that the men of Texas fought for their land and are determined to defend their homeland. The saber stands for valor and confidence. The rifle and cannon are symbols of preparedness and defense. The crossed flags of the United States and Texas recognize the dual allegiance to nation and state."

Texas A&M opened in 1875 and the oldest known Aggie Ring was made in 1889. Through the year 1899, the ring was taken to a Bryan jeweler and a Ring committee was created to finalize the look of the ring. The class of 1900 bought their rings for $10.50, and the tradition of the ring began! For more information about the Aggie Ring, click click here. Congrats to all those getting their Aggie Bling today!

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