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  • Writer's pictureROCK IS DEAD

Happy 40th Birthday to the Walkman

#walkman #happybirthday #sony #portablemusic

Happy 40th Birthday to Sony's iconic musical invention the WALKMAN. The Walkman made its debut in Japan, on July 1st 1979, and because of its success and high demand for the product it would be a full year until American music fans could get their hands on one at US retailers. After its initial debut, there were many stories of tourist and flight attendants purposefully travelling to Japan in order to snag a Walkman for their families back home.

This device revolutionized the music industry and the way fans listened to their favourite artists, so here are some fun Walkman facts below to conceptualize just how important the Walkman was to modern day music consumption.

1) The First of Its Kind

Originally called the "Soundabout", Sony's Walkman was the first personal, handheld device to conquer the mainstream market. Others had tried before, but it was the Walkman that truly found itself on every plane, train and automobile. Over 400 million Walkmans would be sold around the world.

2) Originally Made for Opera Fans

A Sony co-founder originally wanted to create the Walkman for his love of Opera. He wanted to be able to listen to Opera music on long haul flights and needed a device that could be portable and provide a longer sonic listening experience. With cassette tapes being able to hold almost double the amount of music compared to vinyl, a portable cassette machine was the way to go.

3) The Walkman turned Casettes Into the Most Popular Form of Listening to Music

By 1983, just four years after the debut of the Walkman, cassette tapes started outselling vinyl records as the preferred form of music distribution. At that point, cassettes were smaller, carried 45 minutes of music per side, opposed to 45 minutes total on an LP, and could now be portable thanks to the Walkman. Kids could pack 10 cassettes into their backpack and hit a 10 hour road trip with their family while being totally entertained (so long as the batteries didn't run out!).

4) Over 100 Walkman Models Made

Despite the popularity of the iPod boom in the early 2000's, Sony continued to produce Walkmans into the late 2000's ceasing production in 2010. By then over 100 Walkman models hit the market, ranging in different styles, colours, water resistant, "sport models", totally clear, you name it, Sony made it.

5) The Walkman Effect

The Walkman paved the way for portable music consumption. Before you had Spotify on your phone, before the iPod and before the MP3 Player, there was the Walkman. The Walkman Effect, a sociological term coined by Professor Shuhei Hosokawa, alluded to a world where devices like the Walkman could change the way society acted as a whole. The Walkman Effect warns of individuals becoming less involved in their surrounding environments and more focused on their individualized zones (Catawiki, 2019). You've experienced this first hand, if you've ever plugged in while on the subway on your way to work, or sitting in a waiting room. We plug in to escape reality and allow music to take us to another place where things seem simpler. The Walkman started this, but modern technology has evolved it. Did portable music create a society where we are less connected as human beings? Where do you see portable music going in the future? Let us know!

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