It’s sad to think there would be kids out there that would never have seen a real Walkman in the wild. Not an MP3 player or a Minidisc or a Discman, but an actual Walkman.
Adults of a certain age grew up with the Walkman; kicking around at the beach listening to Hungry Like The Wolf, long car trips with only Kylie Minogue’s self-titled debut album to ease the ennui, those slow, drawn out, stretched vocals that acted as a leitmotif for flattening batteries.
My own hiraeth felt justified earlier this year when I visited the Smithsonian in Washington DC in the week before the CES in Las Vegas. In the pop culture pavilion, recognised alongside Dorothy’s red slippers and Julia Child’s kitchen (which has been lovingly recreated), was this installation recognising the Walkman’s incredible cultural impact:
Sony’s inability to transfer its Walkman successes into the digital age have been well documented. It clearly missed a trick with MP3s, unable to present a saleable content-and-hardware platform to consumers. Unlike Apple, which did not invent the MP3 player, but a business model with the iPod at its centre, Sony maintained a silo-driven business that banded with other record labels to sue its customers rather than service their music listening needs.
This year, Sony dusted off its Walkman brand and plastered it onto a whole new form factor: the hybrid headphones/MP3 player. The third part of this 3-in-1 device is a speaker, so it can either be used as a funky pair of headphones or a funky boom-ish box:
Sony 3-in-1 Walkman NWZ-WH505
The Walkman has come a long way since playing cassettes off two double-A batteries! These premium headphones have 16GB of storage on board for housing thousands of tracks, plus they can plugged into any device via the included 3.5-millimetre cord and even playback as a stereo speaker.
Best Feature: 20 hours of battery life means as long as you remember to charge it overnight you’ll never be without music.
And for those feeling a little maudlin today, join me in a trip back in time with ad for the “Super Walkman” – surely the most 1980s 20 seconds of your life: