Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, November 18, 2010



Sad news out of Tokyo this week. After over thirty years of production, the SONY CASSETTE WALKMAN will no longer be manufactured. One of the most iconic devises ever produced, the Walkman was one of the more successful as well. Sony estimates some 200 million were sold all over the world during the last three decades. Sales hit an all-time high in 1984 when it was prominently featured in the movie Back to the Future. (Remember when McFly listened to it while skateboarding?) Anyhow, old school folks from around the world let out a collective sigh. After all, 2010 is a big year for Sony to be retiring treasured tech items. Earlier this year, the FLOPPY DISC was also laid to rest. What is happening to this world?

Techies everywhere were not the least bit surprised. To them, the Walkman's retirement was long overdue. First, no one listens to cassette tapes anymore. To them, tapes were already replaced twenty years ago by CDs. True, by 1990, portable CD players had pushed the Walkman lower on the shelves of Radio Shack. In the year 2000, i-pods and mp3 players were released. They were one twentieth the size of the Walkman yet could hold 100 times more music. Why would anyone carry around a half-pound tape player? Well, despite these advances in technology, still, many die-hard fans didn't care about the number of songs per ounce and continued to lug around their favorite toy.

Why did so many cling to their Walkmans? Well, let's go back to 1979, the initial year of the Walkman's release. It didn't sell very well at first--a mere 3,000 sold in the first month--but soon became the most sought-after device on the cool parts of planet earth. Prior to the walkman, recorded music was only enjoyed at home. People would buy LP records at the store and take them home. Everyone had large stereos with fancy turntables. Folks would play recorded music through speakers or large headphones and listen in the living room. Radios, on the other hand, were portable, but when it came to listening to what YOU wanted to hear, you were stuck at home.

The Walkman (originally called the SOUND-ABOUT...that didn't last long!) changed the way everyone listened to music. Now your living room was everywhere. You could take your Led Zeppelin album with you to the park, mall, on the bus...you were never without your music. This phenomeon, started by the little walkman, has turned into a global trend. Now it's weird to see someone who doesn't have a headphones in their ears...or worse yet...that stupid Star Trek toy: The dreaded BLUETOOTH! Thanks a lot AKIO MORITA and MASARU IBUKA! Our streets will never be quiet again!

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