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The Walkman, Forty Years On

The Walkman Debut

The Walkman Debut

Today when we have unlimited songs in our pocket, we take them for granted, but forty years ago in 1979, when Sony’s first portable music player the “Walkman” debuted, a personal, portable music player was unheard of. From being a shared experience, music suddenly became a deep personal soundscape, hammering between one’s ears.

Though big by today’s standards, the Walkman was a tiny thing to behold in Japan, where it debuted, and the youth took to the funky gadget that could carry one’s music out of the bedroom, into the subway and city streets. Sony ended up selling two million Walkmans in less than two years.

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The Walkman, Forty Years On

The Walkman, Forty Years On

https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-walkman-forty-years-on

newyorker.com

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Key Ideas

The Walkman Debut

Today when we have unlimited songs in our pocket, we take them for granted, but forty years ago in 1979, when Sony’s first portable music player the “Walkman” debuted, a personal, portable music player was unheard of. From being a shared experience, music suddenly became a deep personal soundscape, hammering between one’s ears.

Though big by today’s standards, the Walkman was a tiny thing to behold in Japan, where it debuted, and the youth took to the funky gadget that could carry one’s music out of the bedroom, into the subway and city streets. Sony ended up selling two million Walkmans in less than two years.

The Walkman Effect

The Walkman goes into history as a social distancing device, isolating people who would want to stay immersed in music, blocking out the rest of the world. This was later termed as the Walkman Effect.

The headphones served as both a ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign and an instant way to get transported to a different world.

Turning The Walkman Into A Cultural Phenomenon

The 80s saw celebrities like Donna Summer, Paul Simon, Andy Warhol and many others flashing the Walkman, turning it into a status symbol.

Earphones, earlier associated with geekery or hearing problems, suddenly turned cool.

iPod Inspiration

Steve Jobs, who received a Walkman from the Sony head, Akio Morita, himself, chose to dissect it piece by piece, understanding the machinery behind it. Twenty years later he debuted the iPod, his own version of the portable music player, which had a hard-disk at that time.

The late Apple CEOs Walkman dream was realized when from 2001 till 2007 (when iPhone merged the music player with the phone) he could see his trademark white earbuds in the streets and his digital music players selling in millions.

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