๐Ÿ“‘ The Walkman, Forty Years On

Bookmarked The Walkman, Forty Years On by Matt Alt ([object Object])

The initial incarnation of the Walkman, the TPS-L2, was envisioned as a toy for Japanese high-school and college students to use as they studied. (Sharp-eyed fans will recognize the distinctive silver and blue TPS-L2 as the model carried by Peter Quill in Marvelโ€™s โ€œGuardians of the Galaxyโ€ films.) Sonyโ€™s chairman at the time, the genial Akio Morita, was so unsure of the deviceโ€™s prospects that he ordered a manufacturing run of only thirty thousand, a drop in the bucket compared to such established lines as Trinitron televisions. Initially, he seemed right to be cautious. The Walkman dรฉbuted in Japan to near silence. But word quickly spread among the youth of Tokyo about a strange new device that let you carry a soundtrack out of your bedroom, onto commuter trains, and into city streets. Within a year and a half of the appearance of the Walkman, Sony would produce and sell two million of them.

Matt Alt discusses the invention of the Walkman in 1979 and how it quickly spread around the world. He discusses the impact that the device had on so many levels, including socially.

Hosokawa noted how listeners used the devices to tame the unpredictability of urban spaces, with all of their unexpected intrusions and loud noises. Wearing headphones functioned both as a personal โ€œDo Not Disturbโ€ sign and an alternate soundtrack to the cacophony of the city. This was a new form of human experience, engaged disengagement, a technological shield from the world and an antidote to ennui. Whenever nerves frayed or boredom crept in, one could just hit Play and fast-forward life a little. One of the first Westerners to grasp the import of this new human capacity was the author William Gibson, a pioneer of the genre of science fiction called cyberpunk, who wrote years later that โ€œthe Sony Walkman has done more to change human perception than any virtual reality gadget.โ€

The piece ends with a discussion of the move to digital devices, demonstrating how the Walkman paved the way, especially in regards to the use of headphones.

My favourite Walkman story is Radiohead Promo Only Walkman that glued so you had to listen to the whole album.

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