These days, portable music is something humanity takes for granted. There are songs and playlists readily and literally on hand with smartphones and tablets, boasting library capabilities that would enable them to play hours of music on end. It could be said that the routine mundaneness of portable listening to sheer quantities of music can be credited to Apple and Steve Jobs, showing the possibility with the digital-format iPod media player. But they are not the absolute pioneers of music on the go. It is not Apple but rather Sony, back in the age of magnetic-tape cassettes, when they released the Walkman four decades ago.
The first Sony Walkman portable music cassette player was released back in July 1, 1979. And 40 years to the day, Sony is celebrating the line of little devices that have given them an indelible mark on the pop culture of a past generation, even if they have been superseded by another company’s technological advances. This Monday Sony Corp. in Japan kicked off a two-month long milestone celebration according to Japan Times, to commemorate the Walkman in a wide variety of exhibits showcasing the history and development of portable music.
On the pre-opening press event, President Daisuke Nagano of the subsidiary Sony Enterprise Co. pretty much laid down how the Walkman celebration will fell like for visitors. “I want people to enjoy the Walkman as they immerse themselves in nostalgia,” he said. To that effect, there are plenty of Walkman-themed attractions set up at the Sony Ginza Park in Tokyo, former site of the old Sony HQ that was demolished back in 2017. They include a giant model of the 1983 waterproof Walkman standing 2.5 meters tall, a Walkman Wall displaying the 237 different models of Walkman cassette players and its direct successor the Discman CD players, and much more.
The “My Story, My Walkman” exhibit has 40 Walkman players on display that contains reminiscences and favorite music from a variety of celebrities, creators and public figures, all for each year since Sony debuted the first Walkman. Artists also get their niche by featuring original skins for the Walkman series in the “Custom Walkman” attraction. These are but the tip of the iceberg in the nostalgia blitz for the Sony Walkman, which eventually sold over 400 million units worldwide. That is not bad for a past time when privately listening to music while one walked was still a novel idea.
While its original music cassette format is now obsolete for all intents and purposes, Sony retains trademark for the Walkman name, using it for any of their portable audio devices the way Apple puts the little “i” on their own.
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