Fad-Tastic! The Walkman

    February 15, 2011 at 11:00 am

    There is a reason they are called fads. It’s because they disappeared just as quickly as they blew up in popularity.

    Today’s Subject: The Walkman

    Walkman is a Sony brand tradename originally used for portable audio cassette, and now used to market Sony’s portable audio and video players. The metal-cased blue-and-silver Walkman TPS-L2, the world’s first low-cost portable stereo, went on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979. Where the Pressman had the recording button, the TPS-L2 had a “hotline” button which activated a small built-in microphone, partially overriding the sound from the cassette, and allowing one user to talk to the other over the music. By the year 2000, cassette-based Walkman products were technologically obsolete because the cassette format of music was gradually phased out. Sony continued to make cassette-based Walkman devices until October 23, 2010.

    Here are some things you probably didn’t know about the Walkmen:

    “The device was built in 1978 by audio-division engineer Nobutoshi Kihara for Sony co-chairman Akio Morita, who wanted to be able to listen to operas during his frequent trans-Pacific plane trips.” One mega-rich dude wants to listen to Pavarotti and we are all better for it.

    “Morita hated the name “Walkman” and asked that it be changed, but relented after being told by junior execs that a promotion campaign had already begun using the brand name and that it would be too expensive to change.” He wanted to call it the “Dancy Dance Dizzy Pavarotti Play Takaguchi.”

    “The “Walk-men” and “Walk-women” in ads were created to be the ideal reflections of the subject watching.” The one for women played nothing but the Go-Go’s.

    “A main component of Walkman advertising campaign was personalization of the device. Having the ability to customize a playlist for your ears only was a new and exciting revolution in music technology.” In other words, all your crap music, just the way you like it.

    “In 1986 the name Walkman was included in the Oxford English Dictionary.” Much to the delight of Murray Walkman from Duluth.

    “The initial reaction to the Walkman was poor. Many retailers thought that a cassette player without a recording mechanism had little chance of success.” Funny how wrong retailers usually are about things.

    “Sony sold 30,000 Walkmans in the first two months after its launch, and went on to sell 50 million within a decade.” I, personally, owned 546 because they were so damn fragile.

    “After three decades and more than 220 million units, Sony has stopped selling its Walkman cassette player in Japan, admitting the gadget could not keep up in the digital age.” Plus someone kept recording over the instructions on how to build more.

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