35 Years Walking with the Walkman

The idea for the Walkman came when Sony co-founder Masuru Ibuka asked one of his designers to create a cassette player developed specifically for on the go.
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Written by Staff Writer • Posted on Jul 03, 2014

My Auntie Dita gave me an amazing gift for my fourteenth birthday. It was a Sony Walkman portable cassette player with AM/FM radio. I used it to listen to the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves film score, New Kids on the Block, and a mixed tape of songs I had recorded from the radio (Mariah Carey and Roxette were among the highlights). That Walkman was the coolest thing ever. I had a shoe box full of cassette tapes can you imagine?and now I didn't need to borrow my aunt's Walkman, or listen on the big, bulky stereo in the family room downstairs. I could slip on the foam covered headphones and listen to my own music in my own little world, without being bothered by my little sister or annoying calls to set the table. I was thrilled.

To my ninth grade self, listening to my own music, and portably, was a luxury. I took my beloved Walkman with me everywhere: on the bus to school, to the library after school, even in the solitude of my own room. Today we're fairly used to the sight of individuals isolated from each other by headphones of all shapes and sizes. Commuters of all ages sip coffee, do crosswords, and check email in a comfortable bubble of familiar tunes, blissfully unaware of the noise and crowds around them.

There is a vast array of music to choose from in the world today, and what we each enjoy listening to makes for a very personal decision. Tastes of course vary from person to person, and somehow commutes are easier to bear if we can take our music along for the ride. While there were personal AM/FM radios that predated the Walkman, they were only useful in areas where strong radio signals were available definitely not on the subway or in rural areas. With the Walkman, all you needed was two AA batteries to play music wherever you wanted.

The idea for the Walkman came about when Sony co-founder Masuru Ibuka, who traveled a great deal, asked one of his designers to create a cassette player developed specifically for people on the go. The Walkman could play audio cassettes with great ease and clarity, and it was incredibly portable small and light, and just about the size of a paperback book.

First released in Japan on July 1, 1979, the Walkman was a huge hit right from the get-go. It was the portable sound system ordinary people everywhere had been waiting for. For the first time, people were able to take music with them while traveling and even while exercising, and the Walkman ruled the electronics market until the last 1990's.

Did you ever have a Walkman? What did it make more convenient for you? Let us know in the comments below.