| 27 Jun 2022
An ode to the Sony Walkman

MUMBAI: The Walkman, once a status symbol of the young and old alike, turned a mellow 30 this week. Owning a Sony Walkman was a statement, a statement which was much more than what today's iPods' make. There were many who saved for months to buy a walkman, and then splurge some more on those cassettes and take them along for some great on-the-go music listening sessions.

Unlike IPods, the user friendliness of the Walkman of the device may seem a little rustic – but it was the best technology at that given time.

On July 1, 1979 (around 30 years back) Sony launched walkman, a portable cassette player which helped Sony to become a global power house, and within two months of the launch, Sony sold a whopping 30,000 walkmans.

As the Walkman completes 30 years of innovation, a few readers rewind their memories of the first portable music novelty.

"I used a Sony Walkman sport model," says Sahil Jatana, a media professional and gadget enthusiast. "My uncle had gifted it to me, and I think it came for around USD 200 (with AM and FM bands) and was completely water proof. I used it for about 4-5 years before I got a discMan, but I loved it completely!" he says.

Former RJ turned singer Anuj says, "I used a Sony Walkman that was passed down from my elder brother – the coolest thing it was at that age. With cassettes stuffed in a bag, the Walkman clipped on my belt, I would keep rewinding, forwarding and listening – they even made Walkman with led lights and tiny equalizer faders on the outside. I have such lovely memories of listening to Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and DDLJ on the walkman," he adds.

"I think walkmans is what introduced me to music," says PR professional Hemalee Shah. "I was hooked to the idea of carrying a small portable music player along with you wherever you go! Even tough technology has worked its charm upon them and they have been replaced by iPods, nevertheless, every time I see a walkman, it brings a sense of nostalgia to me," she adds.

Over the period, walkmans became companions for travelling, to pass time while working (or studying) - there were many, couldn't survive their commute without a Walkman. The trend of creating customized tapes soon settled, and people were seen thronging to the local cassette shop or the friendly neighbor to create and mix their tapes of their favorite artists and tracks. Those tapes, and all of the blanks consumed to create those tapes were the precursor to the mix-CDs and iTunes playlists we are making now.

"I guess going digital was the need of the hour and so the Walkman didn't get recognition it deserved – but it sure did revolutionalize the concept of music on the go," adds Jatana.

Amid fierce competition, from brands like Toshiba (the Walky), Aiwa (the Cassette Boy) and Panasonic, by the late 80s, Sony upped the ante once again by creating the playback-only WM-DD9 (1989) during the 10th anniversary of the Walkman. WM-DD9 became the holy grail for a niche group of cassette Walkman collectors. "I clung to my Walkman even when it was on the verge of death, says Sabah Sheikh, a freelance writer, "I think I made it live for about four years," she exclaims.

By the late 1990s, the cassette-based Walkman was generally passed over in favor of the emerging digital technologies of CD, DAT and MiniDisc. After 2000, cassette-based Walkman products (and their replicas) were approaching technological obsolescence as the cassette format was gradually phased out.

Saurabh Khatri, an advertising professional says," I think Walkmans were way cooler than the ipods and the mp3 players we have nowadays. Everyone has an iPod now, but having a Walkman in those days was a luxury. I admit I don't use one anymore, but what a companion to mankind!"

"I miss pressing the rewind buttons,... says Jaleebee Cartel manager Dev Bhatia, And, hear the sound of the tape going crazy!...