System set up in record stores in the late 1980s that allowed customers to create their own mix tapes from a large catalog of popular songs. The system arrived just when CDs were starting to edge out vinyl, and 7-inch singles were quickly becoming extinct. Personics filled this void by providing a catalog containing songs both old and new, from artists famous (mostly) and obscure (often enough to be interesting).

You could listen to a few seconds of the song by punching its code number into the machine and decide whether you wanted to include it on your tape. Then you keyed in the title of the tape you were making and the song list, and conveyed it (via a printout, if memory serves) to a clerk behind the store's counter. About twenty minutes later the clerk would return with your tape, with the title and playlist printed handsomely on the insert. For your money you got a high-quality mix with even spaces between the songs and no annoying blips or thunks in between. You didn't get to play DJ, but it was still pretty cool.

I have one Personics tape in my collection. It's called HAPPY HANUKKAH MARK (taken from a Personics ad urging holiday shoppers to purchase them as gifts) and includes tracks by Johnny Cash, The Runaways, ABBA, the Surf Punks, and Julian Cope. I still think this is a great idea -- I miss being able to buy one and only one song by a band, and having the ability to create my own CD on the cheap at my local music store would bring me much happiness. I realize there are sites on the Web that allow one to download individual songs for a modest fee, but this presupposes having things like a PC, a high-speed internet connection, a sound card, and a CD burner, items that may not be in everyone's budget.

Music should be affordable - fuck the Man!