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The first Sony Walkman goes on sale

The first Sony Walkman goes on sale

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The transistor radio was a technological marvel that put music literally into consumers’ hands in the mid-1950s. It was cheap, it was reliable and it was portable, but it could never even approximate the sound quality of a record being played on a home stereo. It was, however, the only technology available to on-the-go music lovers until the Sony Corporation sparked a revolution in personal electronics with the introduction of the first personal stereo cassette player. A device as astonishing on first encounter as the cellular phone or digital camera would later be, the Sony Walkman went on sale for the very first time on July 1, 1979.

The Sony Walkman didn’t represent a breakthrough in technology so much as it did a breakthrough in imagination. Every element of the Walkman was already in production or testing as part of some other device when Sony’s legendary chairman, Masaru Ibuka, made a special request in early 1979. Ibuka was a music lover who traveled frequently, and he was already in the habit of carrying one of his company’s “portable” stereo tape recorders with him on international flights. But the Sony TC-D5 was a heavy device that was in no way portable by modern standards, so Ibuka asked his then-deputy Norio Ohga if he could cobble together something better. Working with the company’s existing Pressman product—a portable, monaural tape recorder that was popular with journalists—Ohga had a playback-only stereo device rigged up in time for Ibuka’s next trans-Pacific flight.

Even though this proto-Walkman required large, earmuff-like headphones and custom-made batteries (which, of course, ran out on Ibuka midway through his flight), it impressed the Sony chairman tremendously with its sound quality and portability. Many objections were raised internally when Ibuka began his push to create a marketable version of the device, the biggest of which was conceptual: Would anyone actually buy a cassette device that was not for recording but only for playback? Ibuka’s simple response—”Don’t you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea?”—proved to be one of the great understatements in business history.

After a breakneck development phase of only four months, Sony engineers had a reliable product ready for market at 30,000 Yen (approximately US$150 in 1979 dollars) and available before the start of summer vacation for Japanese students—both critical targets established at the outset of development. The initial production run of 30,000 units looked to be too ambitious after one month of lackluster sales (only 3,000 were sold in July 1979). But after an innovative consumer-marketing campaign in which Sony representatives simply approached pedestrians on the streets of Tokyo and gave them a chance to listen to the Walkman, the product took off, selling out available stocks before the end of August and signaling the beginning of one of Sony’s greatest success stories.

Recorded History: The Sony Walkman Turns 40

The journalists had never experienced anything like it, and that wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Packed into buses headed for Yoyogi Park near Sony’s headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, they knew the electronics giant was excited about a product launch set for July 1, 1979. But what had been handed to them after boarding was confusing.

It was a blue-accented device, made mostly of metal and roughly 6 inches long by 3.5 inches wide. Inside was a standard audio cassette. It could be held in one hand, clipped to a belt, or—more awkwardly—hung around the neck. A pair of compact, foam-encased headphones trailed from the unit to the user’s ears, where it emitted a surprisingly rich stereo sound.

But it had no recording feature like Sony’s Pressman, which media members had used for years to document conversations. And the scene at Yoyogi Park was odd: Dozens of Sony staffers were riding tandem bicycles, skateboarding, and swaying while bystanders looked on, baffled. No one was talking the product announcement was being piped in to reporters via a recording on the device. Sony dubbed it the Walkman, and it insisted it would revolutionize how the world consumed music.

The assembled media members took in the presentation, returned to the bus, and shrugged. Who was going to wear a miniaturized stereo that cost $200 USD?

Enough people, it turns out, for over 400 million Walkmans to be sold in the coming decades enough for Sony’s profits to grow so substantially that they could afford to buy a movie studio, Columbia Pictures enough that city officials would declare them a public nuisance that could result in deadly traffic accidents or ear damage.

Sony had anticipated a need and profited handsomely. But while the company became synonymous with the Walkman, there’s a one asterisk to their story—they didn’t actually invent it.

Portable listening devices were, of course, nothing new. Transistor radios grew popular in the 1950s by shrinking components to allow for a pocket-sized listening experience. The drawback was that the user was limited to picking up broadcast stations and whatever playlist the programming director preferred. They were also tinny, the earbuds laughably weak next to proper stereo systems. Real, lost-in-the-music moments were reserved for bedrooms equipped with record players and floorboards that could stand up to the adolescent hysteria incited by Elvis or the Beatles.

Masaru Ibuka’s teenage years were decades in the rear-view mirror, but he identified with their passion for music. A co-founder of Sony, Ibuka was disappointed he couldn’t bring a cassette player with him on long, transatlantic plane rides. Why, he asked engineers, couldn’t they develop a device that was small enough to carry around while allowing the user to listen to whatever he or she wanted?

Akio Morita, Ibuka’s partner, agreed, and the two set a deadline: They wanted a product ready for the start of summer vacation on July 1, a marketing opportunity for people exercising or relaxing outdoors. Under a time crunch, Kozo Ohsone, Shizuo Takashino and other developers took their Pressman—a bulky recorder meant for a niche market—and removed the recording mechanism, adding a lightweight pair of headphones and a stereo amplifier. (To create something completely from scratch would not only take more time, it would be more risk: A prototype that broke down would not go over well.)

Morita took their modified Pressman home and listened to it. It was exactly what he and Ibuka wanted, with one exception: His wife was annoyed at the isolating nature of the device. Morita didn’t want Sony to market a “rude” product, so he had his team add a second headphone jack and an orange button that allowed two listeners to talk to each other through a microphone.

Sony’s Pressman evolved into the TPS-L2, a cassette player designed to resemble antique Japanese lacquered boxes. “Walkman” was taken from both Pressman and Superman, a character recently re-introduced to the public eye because of the 1978 feature film. “Walkman” also hinted at locomotion, the idea of breaking free from home stereos and going where you pleased.

Morita and Ibuka thought they had a hit, but the press disagreed. The lack of a recording feature confounded them, and their apathy leaked into the market. In July 1979, the first month Walkmans were on sale, only 3000 units were sold. In a controlled panic, Sony’s marketing department decided that the Walkman experience was so singular that they would have to be aggressive. Japanese celebrities were recruited for print ads Sony employees rode trains and patrolled busy pedestrian-packed districts on weekends, extending headphones so consumers could listen for themselves. No ad or slogan could really describe the unique experience of cutting the cord from elaborate home stereos. The Walkman had to be worn to be appreciated.

Sony’s assertive plan worked. Twenty-seven thousand units were sold in August, which depleted the company of its initial 30,000-unit production run. Tourists returned to France, the UK and the U.S. with the devices, seeding the company’s expansion plans. By early 1980, the Walkman was headed for America.

Morita had considered calling it the Soundabout in the States, but “Walkman” was already on the lips of early adopters who had heard of or seen the portable device. Sporting a stylish leather cover, it quickly became an urban accessory must-have. Walkmans in New York became as pervasive as potholes, with users acknowledging one another on the street as though they belonged to the same fraternity.

In their first mention of the Walkman on July 7, 1980, the New York Times declared it a status symbol:

Josh Lansing and the young blonde woman had never even met before, but as they passed each other on Madison Avenue the other afternoon, she waved and smiled and he tipped his headphones in salute . What the two well-dressed strangers first noticed about each other was that they were both possessors of the newest status symbol around town: the Walkman …”It's just like Mercedes-Benz owners honking when they pass each other on the road,” explained Mr. Lansing, whose cassette hung from his Gucci belt.

Andy Warhol told the Washington Post he preferred the sound of Pavarotti over blaring car horns beaches that had banned radios took no issue with the solitary nature of portables. The soundtrack of life could not only be changed, but muted.

That latter feature was of concern to Woodbridge, N.J., which passed an ordinance in 1982 that banned the Walkman and its knock-offs from anyone driving or riding a bike on a public street, joining nine other states with similar prohibitions. Wearing headphones for extended periods also concerned audiologists, who feared ear damage from constant musical accompaniment to homework, working out, or isolated jobs like toll collecting or taxi driving. Even repair shops chimed in, saying the parts were too tiny to repair and hanging signs refusing service to the Sony elite.

None of this slowed the Walkman’s momentum. The company shipped over 500,000 units worldwide in 1980 and tripled that in 1981. In 1983, the company introduced the WM-10, which was only a third the size of the original. It featured a “drawer" that retracted when the cassette tray was empty. More importantly, it had earbuds that allowed ambient noise to leak in, easing safety concerns. In 1988 they released the WM-505, the first model with wireless headphones, over 12 years before the first Bluetooth headset.

The Walkman featured prominently in Footloose Marty McFly used it to terrorize the transistor-era of the 1950s in Back to the Future “walkmans” became a colloquial term for any portable device in the way Kleenex had become the standard declaration for a tissue.

By the time it entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986, Sony had invented, invaded, and conquered an entirely new consumer electronics space.

At least, that's what they had assumed. The same year they made the OED, the company offered a settlement to Andreas Pavel, who for years had taken issue with the “invention” portion of Sony’s story. A devout music lover, he filed a patent in Milan, Italy in 1977 for something he informally referred to as a stereobelt. He tried courting manufacturers, but Philips and Yamaha weren’t interested. Years later, he took note of the Walkman. A case of communal thinking, Pavel was still peeved his discovery had found success without him, though it was for financial rather than personal reasons. "I don't want to be reduced to the label of being the inventor of the Walkman," he told the New York Times.

After two decades of off-and-on court fights, he settled with Sony in 2003. A testament to the Walkman's immense success, the company reportedly cut him a check for eight figures.

By the late 1980s, the Walkman had grown to accommodate CDs (the Discman) and television (the bulky Watchman). In the 1990s, MP3 devices took up much of their development time, but nothing could anticipate—or compete against—the shift caused by Apple’s iPod in the 2000s. By 2010, Sony announced it would be discontinuing the cassette-based Walkman brand in most territories. Just as Sony users had stamped out transistors and boom boxes in the 1980s to become a societal badge of cool, the iPod’s devotees would settle for nothing less than an Apple.

Cool, of course, is relative. 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy resurrected both the device and the concept of a mix tape, with Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill using the TPS-L2 as an emotional lifeline to his childhood on Earth. Previously trading for around $100 among collectors, the model shot up to nearly $1000 after the movie was released a rare “Guys & Dolls” version, which labeled the headphone jacks by gender, can sell for nearly $3000. Thanks to Pratt, the Walkman had come full circle.

Ibuka, incidentally, never quite got his wish. After his team scrambled to modify a Pressman in time for his next international flight, he settled into his seat and hit play. Nothing happened. In their rush to find some classical music for Ibuka to listen to, the engineers accidentally grabbed a bunch of blank cassettes.

" Why No Record Function? "

With no real technical problems to concern themselves with, the team concentrated on ways to promote the concept of music on the move to ensure the product would be a hit. First, a group of young members led by Toru Kohno of the Publicity Division racked their brains to come up with a suitable name for the product. After much time and effort, and the rejection of many alternatives, the name "Walkman" was finally chosen. Factors influencing the decision included the popularity of Superman at the time and the fact that the new product was based on the Pressman. The name "Walkman" contributed to the dynamic, fun image of the concept.

Despite protests that the name was a strange mixture of Japanese and English, Morita praised it. Most buyers would be young people, and Morita believed that the young staff members who had come up with the name were in tune with their own generation. He supported the enthusiasm and boldness that had gone into the creation of the name. In addition, packaging and posters bearing the name "Walkman" had already been printed and there was no time to change them.

Morita took one of the test models home to try. His first idea was adding an extra jack so two people could listen to music at the same time. His second idea was designing a talk button to enable people to carry on a conversation while wearing the headphones. Yasuo Kuroki of the Product Planning Center worked with the product engineers to incorporate these features and create a simple, functional, yet attractive design.

Nevertheless, the first Walkman received much criticism even before it was launched. People said that a tape player, which could not record, would never catch on. Morita, however, refused to be swayed, staking his own reputation on the success of the Walkman. Although he could not definitely say it would be a hit, Morita trusted his judgment. He knew that the first thing his own children did when they got home was to turn the stereo on, and he firmly believed that the Walkman would further deepen the connection between young people and music.

The idea for the Walkman had come from Ibuka, who was over 70 years old, and Morita, himself approaching 60 enthusiastically supported it. Not content to rest on their laurels, both kept looking for new ideas and strove to understand what kind of products would meet the lifestyle needs of young people.

When Sony sales people tried to explain the concept of the Walkman to retailers, they met considerable skepticism. Retailers were not convinced they could sell a tape player that did not record. What kept Sony sales people and product engineers motivated in the face of such uncertainty was the enthusiasm of Ibuka and Morita as well as the fact that the young women working on the Walkman production line wanted to own what they were producing.

Morita ordered an initial production run of 30,000 Walkman units. Considering that monthly sales of the best-selling tape recorder averaged 15,000 units, this was a bold decision. Amid considerable uncertainty, the project went from development through production to preparation for launch. Finally, on June 22, 1979, it was announced that the "Walkman" would go on sale on July 1, only ten days after the original target date and just before the beginning of summer vacation.

As Sony's Walkman Turns 35, a Look Back at Its Inception

I magine you’re the co-founder of a global corporation, a Japanese electronics industry behemoth with virtually limitless resources at your disposal. But you live on planes, you like to listen to classical music during lengthy trans-Pacific trips, and you’re tired of schlepping your company’s bleeding edge bulky monaural-only player around.

So, because you can, you instruct your research and development wing to build a smaller, more portable version for your personal use. The year is 1978.

From that self-serving request — made over three decades ago by frustrated Sony co-chairman Masaru Ibuka and serviced by Sony’s tape recorder division with a device Ibuka liked so much he pushed to bring it to market — poured the world’s first portable audio empire. Sony’s Walkman, which turns 35 years old on July 1, 2014, went on to sell hundreds of millions of magnetic tape-reeling units, decades before Apple’s iPod ushered in the digital, solid state audio playback revolution.

Portable audio devices weren’t new when Sony’s first Walkman, the unsexy-sounding model “TPS-L2,” arrived on July 1, 1979. The world’s first portable audio player appeared two-and-a-half decades earlier in 1954: the Regency TR-1 — it had a more logical-looking model number, the TR being short for “transistor,” itself technology that was turning heads in the mid-1950s. It cost $49.95 when it launched, or $442 in today’s dollars. It played back radio audio, of course, weighed 12 ounces (with its 22.5-volt battery, which lasted 20 hours), was about the size of an inch-thick stack of index cards and didn’t fit in your pocket. But though Regency only sold about 150,000 TR-1 units, it’s recognized as the first device that got people out and listening to music on the go.

Magnetic tape appeared earlier still, back in 1930, courtesy German chemical engineering company BASF, though at this point the tape was wrapped around giant reels and hung on machines that were anything but portable (AEG showed off the first reel-to-reel commercial recorder in 1935, dubbed the “Magnetophon”). It took half a century — a period that witnessed the emergence of everything from 8-track players in the 1960s to semi-portable cassette-wielding “boombox” stereos in the 1970s — before Sony began toying with the notion of music-focused tape players small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Even then, one of Sony’s first attempts at a high-end “portable” stereo music player was hardly mainstream: the TC-D5, released in 1978, was heavy and cost a fortune. It was the bulky TC-D5 that Sony’s Ibuka was hauling back and forth on all those lengthy business flights, and which prompted him in 1978 to ask Norio Ohga, Sony’s section manager of its tape recorder division, to have a go at creating a stereo version of Sony’s Pressman — a relatively small, monaural tape recorder Sony had begun selling in 1977 and targeted at members of the press.

Ohga took Ibuka’s request to Kozo Ohsone, the tape recorder business division’s general manager, who immediately began fiddling with a modified Pressman that wouldn’t record audio but instead offered stereo playback. The resulting device so pleased Ibuka after he tried it on a business trip that he went to then-Sony chairman Akio Morita, saying “Try this. Don’t you think a stereo cassette player that you can listen to while walking around is a good idea?”

Morita did, and he thought the world would, too, immediately instructing his engineering team to begin work on a product “that will satisfy those young people who want to listen to music all day.” The device had to be ready by summer (to appeal to students on vacation) and ship at a price comparable to the Pressman’s.

After just four months in development, the device was ready. But what to call it? Sony’s Ibuka wanted “Walkman,” in accord with the company’s Pressman, but the company wasn’t so sure the name was right, at first marketing the device as the “Soundabout” in the U.S. (where it debuted slightly later in June of 1980) and with completely different names in other countries. Sony eventually settled on Ibuka’s function-angled moniker — the underlying principle was musical ambulation, after all — and so the Walkman was born, though it wasn’t an instant hit.

Sony produced 30,000 units at the device’s Japanese launch in 1979 — the TPS-L2 ran on two AA batteries and required headphones, since it had no speaker — and priced it at $150 (just under $500 in today’s dollars), but only sold a few thousand by the close of July. It took Sony representatives walking the streets of Tokyo with test units in hand, working the crowds and letting them try the Walkman for themselves, to generate interest that devoured all of Sony’s product stock by August’s close. And to address critics of the TPS-L2, who balked at the notion of its playback-only limitation, Sony quickly followed with a version of the Walkman it dubbed the TCS-300 that added the option to record as well.

The rest of the story you know: While cassette and later disc-based mobile media players have long since been supplanted by Apple’s iPod and the MP3-focused post-iPod listening era, the Walkman, through all its many feature iterations and media shifts to alternative formats like the MiniDisc (sold under the Walkman brand), has gone on to sell nearly 400 million units. By contrast, you have to add up all of Sony’s PlayStation game consoles and handhelds sold to date (the first PlayStation went on sale in late 1994) to slide past that figure.

This is somewhat less well-known — you’ll find this nowhere in Sony’s elaborate corporate self-history — but Sony got into a bit of legal trouble with the Walkman that it didn’t fully get out of until roughly a decade ago. That’s because of one Andreas Pavel, a German-Brazilian inventor who created a device way back in 1972 that he dubbed the “Stereobelt” (because you wore it like a belt). Pavel’s device was enough like the Walkman, and his patents filed well enough in advance, that Sony eventually had to pay him royalties on the Walkman’s sales, but then it only did so in certain countries and for select models.

But Pavel, described in this 2005 New York Times piece as “more interested in ideas and the arts than in commerce, cosmopolitan by nature and upbringing,” also wanted recognition for being the inventor of the “portable stereo,” so he pursued Sony, culminating in threats in the early 2000s to sue the company in every country Pavel had filed a patent. In 2003, Sony finally relented, settling out of court for an undisclosed amount, and Pavel won the right, once and for all, to call himself the inventor of the personal portable stereo player.

My own memories of the Walkman’s arrival are filtered through the haze of a pre-Internet-chronicled childhood. I was nine-going-on-10 when the Walkman debuted stateside, living in a remote Nebraska town with a population in the low thousands. (Alexander Payne exaggerates the details of small-town Nebraska life in his eponymous film, but gets the sedate pace and disconnected tone precisely right.) In 1980, my parents had a combo 8-track stereo and record player that looked like a sofa table and took at least two people to move. It had a giant lid to hide all its knobs and levers — a monument to technological unsightliness encapsulated by elegant woodwork. It was state-of-the-art where I lived, and my interface to music as the world was transitioning to mobile.

When I got my first Walkman — I don’t recall the exact year, though I’m sure it wasn’t the first model — it was a revelation, a means of listening to music when and where I wanted to, of breaking up weekend family car trips (every car trip’s forever when you’re a kid and an hour in any direction from a major city), of liberating the music I was listening to at the time (a great many John Williams film soundtracks courtesy my uncle, who’d make me cassette copies of his own recordings) from the confines of living rooms, or the aural and control compromises of automobile stereos.

I’m not sure I cared about or even fully understood Sony’s role in portable stereo-dom growing up in the 1980s, and Sony or no, a device like the Walkman (just as the iPod after it) was probably inevitable. But credit where credit’s due: Sony’s Walkman is emblematic of what it meant to be a music connoisseur during the cassette tape’s glory days, where keeping the music in transition from your living room to your car stereo to on your person after driving to a park for a stroll or jog was as simple as hitting a button (EJECT), slipping the tiny tape-spooled piece of plastic from one magnetic door to another, and pushing PLAY.

I was not alive when the Sony Walkman was invented…

IN THIS PHOTO: The Sony Walkman WM-101 was the first device to come with rechargeable batteries/PHOTO CREDIT: Sony/Getty Images

but it definitely made an impact in my childhood years. I remember getting hold of a Walkman around the age of about seven or eight and being liberated. Able to transport my favourite cassettes around and listen to music on the go…this was something that my generation were experiencing and it was a major breakthrough. One might feel it is a bit over-the-top to call the invention of the Sony Walkman an historic moment. Look at the devices and technology that has brought music forward and revolutionised how we listen to music. Think of when the gramophone came in and how that allowed records to be played. Back in 1979, people could listen to cassettes on the move but, for the most part, they had to rely on slightly cumbersome and clunky players and boom-boxes. It was quite social having a cassette player or boom-box one could bring it out into the open and people could share their prized artists. Thinking about it and it didn’t allow for much subtlety and privacy. On 1st July, 1979, Sony introduced the portable and awesome Walkman – a device that would eventually evolve into the Discman (a rare case of taking a huge step back when it came to technology). Before I tell you why me and a lot of people my age love the Walkman, let’s get some historical perspective. This Time article charts the beginnings of the Sony Walkman:

The Walkman wasn't a giant leap forward in engineering: magnetic cassette technology had been around since 1963, when the Netherlands-based electronics firm Philips first created it for use by secretaries and journalists. Sony, who by that point had become experts in bringing well-designed, miniaturized electronics to market (they debuted their first transistor radio in 1955), made a series of moderately successful portable cassette recorders.

But the introduction of pre-recorded music tapes in the late 1960s opened a whole new market. People still chose to listen to vinyl records over cassettes at home, but the compact size of tapes made them more conducive to car stereos and mobility than vinyl or 8-tracks. On July 1, 1979, Sony Corp. introduced the Sony Walkman TPS-L2, a 14 ounce, blue-and-silver, portable cassette player with chunky buttons, headphones and a leather case. It even had a second earphone jack so that two people could listen in at once.

All the device needed now was a name. Originally the Walkman was introduced in the U.S. as the "Sound-About" and in the UK as the "Stowaway," but coming up with new, uncopyrighted names in every country it was marketed in proved costly Sony eventually decided on "Walkman" as a play on the Sony Pressman, a mono cassette recorder the first Walkman prototype was based on. First released in Japan, it was a massive hit: while Sony predicted it would only sell about 5,000 units a month, the Walkman sold upwards of 50,000 in the first two months. Sony wasn't the first company to introduce portable audio: the first-ever portable transistor radio, the index card-sized Regency TR-1, debuted in 1954. But the Walkman's unprecedented combination of portability (it ran on two AA batteries) and privacy (it featured a headphone jack but no external speaker) made it the ideal product for thousands of consumers looking for a compact portable stereo that they could take with them anywhere. The TPS-L2 was introduced in the U.S. in June 1980”.

Although the Walkman was a revolutionary and welcomed introduction, it was quite a pricey option for music-lovers back in 1979 – can one put a price on its importance?! This feature from The Verge shows how the humble Walkman grew in stature how it is hugely important to his very day:

The first of Sony's iconic portable cassette tape players went on sale on this day, July 1st, back in 1979 for $150. As the story goes, Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka got the wheels turning months before when he asked for a way to listen to opera that was more portable than Sony's existing TC-D5 cassette players. The charge fell to Sony designer Norio Ohga, who built a prototype out of Sony's Pressman cassette recorder in time for Ibuka's next flight.

After a disappointing first month of sales, the Walkman went on to become one of Sony's most successful brands of all time, transitioning formats over the years into CD, Mini-Disc, MP3 and finally, streaming music. Over 400 million Walkman portable music players have been sold, 200 million of them cassette players. Sony retired the classic cassette tape Walkman line in 2010, and was forced to pay a huge settlement to the original inventor of the portable cassette player, Andreas Pavel. But the name lives on today in the form of new MP3 players and Sony's Walkman app. They heyday of the Walkman may be over, with kids today baffled and disgusted by the relative clumsiness of cassettes. But the habit it spawned — listening to music wherever and whenever you want — is bigger than ever”.

IN THIS PHOTO: Sony’s first Discman was released in 1984/PHOTO CREDIT: Sony/Getty Images

I will end by looking at how the Walkman has dwindled since its introduction but, in an age where we carry everything on our phone, it is sad that we do not have this groundbreaking piece of kit on our person! I recall my parents talking about the introduction of the Walkman and how it was this desirable object that eventually made its way to our shores – it is a Japanese invention and, as I shall show later, the fact it slowly crept around the world made it all the more desirable! My earliest music-listening days (around about 1987-1990-ish) were spent, largely, listening to a bigger unit where I had a double tape deck. It was pretty cool having that and it allowed me to listen to tape out of the house. I have a huge fondness for vinyl but I often find a record player does not allow the portability we crave. Early cassette players and devices were a bit large but it did mean me and my mates could take cassettes out of our homes and share them with one another. We could sit on the grass and marvel at these great albums, played loud, without having to worry about our parents’ (dis)approval. I cannot recall the day I got a Walkman but the effect was instant: the ability to listen to music privately whilst on the move. One might say that the Walkman made music-listening more insular and less communal but, from the earliest days of music, there has always been that desire to listen to music peacefully and in a very personal way.


I think there is something magical about sharing music and listening with peers but, for that sheer release and affirmative rush, listening to music without interruption and expectation is hard to beat! Now, as I type this, I have headphones on am listening to Beyoncé’s Homecoming album. If I was listening to the album with a group of people, we could all react and it would be cool seeing how people respond to the music. I feel, with the music in my ears (and only mine) it is more intimate and personal – like Beyoncé is performing directly to me. Music is at its strongest when it has that direct touch and power to move you. I am not saying the earliest days, pre-Walkman, were not good but there was something about the Walkman that took music to a new level! I had a large collection of cassettes and, before, I had to play them in my room and it didn’t allow for much movement and personal space. When I got my first Walkman – maybe the early-1990s, now that I think of it – I was able to walk around and, not only did I get to listen to all my tunes with smoothness and peace, but I was actually getting active at the same time! The portability and sleekness of the Walkman, as Mental Floss explained in this feature, was marketed at a younger audience:

The teen angle also meant that Sony had to produce new, more stylish and lightweight headphones, improving on the earmuff-like ones available at the time.

The initial ad campaigns emphasized youth and sportiness: young people on roller skates and bicycles, earphones on their ears and Walkmans on their belts. One advertisement said it all: a young, pretty girl with a Walkman wearing futuristic earphones walking past an elderly monk wearing a clunky, old ’60s-style headset”.

As I said early, the Walkman was reserved to Japan for a long time. It took a while for it to make its way to international markets:

Two months after the July 1 rollout, Sony sold out of the initial production in Japan. The company intended to introduce the Walkman to foreign markets in September 1979, but scrapped that plan in order to dedicate production to meet Japanese demand. This only made the Walkman more desired in other countries. Tourists and airline crews searched them out and brought them home. Whenever Sony executives went abroad, colleagues badgered them about obtaining Walkmans.

In 1979, the year of the Walkman’s release in Japan, recorded music sales were about $4 billion in the U.S., half of which went to vinyl, a quarter to compact cassettes, and a quarter to 8-tracks, according to Mark Coleman's book Playback. The Walkman made its U.S. debut in June 1980, and just three years later, in 1983, cassettes overtook vinyl as the top format. By the time Sony stopped manufacturing the Walkman portable cassette players in 2010, the company had sold around 385 million units”.

Was the Walkman, at a time when music was sociable and shared, taking us more into private and closed-off territory?

In an essay that may seem either quaint or prophetic in the age of smartphones, Japanese professor Shuhei Hosokawa accused the Walkman of altering the urban landscape, from one in which experiences were shared and spontaneous into one where individuals were preoccupied and autonomous in thought and mood. In a 1984 article for the journal Popular Music, entitled "The Walkman Effect," Hosokawa, of the inter-university International Research Center for Japanese Studies, wrote that the “listener seems to cut the auditory contact with the outer world where he really lives: seeking the perfection of his ‘individual’ zone of listening.

IN THIS PHOTO: The invention of the Walkman has, indirectly, led to the portability and convenience of the Smartphone/PHOTO CREDIT: @jens_johnsson

I have mentioned how, if the Walkman made music more personal and less sociable, it did encourage people to move and, with music in their ears, the health benefits were clear:

The Walkman coincided with the exercise craze of the ’80s, which saw the Western middle class, newly confined to office jobs, take to the gym and fitness classes. “[A]lmost immediately, it became common to see people exercising with the new device,” Richard James Burgess wrote in The History of Music Production. “Appropriate personalized music eases the boredom and pain of repetitive exercise.”

I think there has not been another move in music technology since 1979 that has changed how we listen and experienced sounds. One can say Smartphones have transformed things but, look at what was before the Walkman, and you have to admit that (the 1979 invention) was a seismic shift. We all know what sort of went wrong when it came to following the incredible Walkman: making C.D. listening portable was fraught with challenges. This AdWeek article discusses the ways Sony tried to make other forms of music mobile but, as anyone who has owned a Discman will tell you, there were more problems than benefits:

Groundbreaking as it was, however, the Walkman would also become one of branding's cautionary tales. Sony initially kept apace with the changes in technology, introducing its CD-playing Discman D-20 in 1987. But when the era of MP3 arrived, Sony wasn't hip to the groove. The MP3 Walkman arrived in 2004, but its high price ($400) and Sony's insistence on using its Atrac MiniDisc format alienated many consumers—who were all too happy to defect to Apple's iPod after it hit the market in 2001. "Sony was not defending its space as it should have been," Reed said. "One of the brilliant things that Apple did—and that Sony had done—was to create a category."

IN THIS PHOTO: This is what the Walkman looks like today: the modern-day and slimline NW-ZK1/PHOTO CREDIT: Sony/Getty Images

I am not down on the Discman at all: it meant we could all listen to C.D.s on the move but, as C.D.s are more fragile than cassettes, it meant harnessing a device that could play them smoothly was always going to be a challenge. Now, we look back and laugh at how one used to hold a Discman: usually in the air, making sure tracks did not skip perhaps walking very gingerly as not to irritate the mechanisms and get that horrible skipping sensation. Walkmans, in a way, were way ahead of Discmans and much more inviting. There was always the dilemma one would have when the cassette would sound a bit off – normally one would have to unspool the tape because the bloody thing was stuck and beyond saving! This article charts where Sony went from the Discman. By 1992, Sony brought out its first HD Walkman - Sony created the world’s first MiniDisc Walkman® MZ-1 that featured recording, playback a numeric keyboard and anti-skip technology. This device could record for up to seventy-four minutes, and those recordings could be divided, combined deleted and named (all new experiences to tape recording!). From there, as newer technology came out, the Walkman changed its shape and appearance. I do wonder whether the so-called ‘Walkman Effect’ is responsible for this big modern-day issue of people on their phones nobody looking up and everyone keeping to themselves.

If one can argue the Walkman encouraged technology companies to pioneer music/devices that were more private and personal than social and communicative, they (Sony) at least made portable music-listening possible. They made it possible for us to listen to music on our own and not have to be anchored and constricted by overly-large cassette players and worry about volume! Is the Walkman due a revival? As this feature explains, the Walkman had a brief resurgence a few years back:

They have since licensed the name to Chinese manufacturers and used it themselves for MP3 players and even phones, but the original Walkman had become a thing of the past. or had it? In 2014 the Walkman was revived thanks to the release of the Marvel movie Guardians of the Galaxy in which the main character uses his Walkman and mix tapes as a lifeline to his childhood on Earth. After the release of the movie, the price of second-hand walkmans increased dramatically thanks to this retro reboot”.

As our modern world keeps vinyl alive and there is never going to be an end to our love of record shops, does that mean there is a space for cassettes? Definitely, there are disadvantages with cassettes: you cannot easily skip tracks and you have to wind forward/backward it is a rather frustrating experience unless you want to listen to an album in one go.

SOLD - FOR SALE: Sony Walkman - TC-D5 (Vintage - the 1st truly portable Walkman)

serial # 11545 – manufactured 1979 – takes audio cassettes
A friend purchased this Walkman for me at Kimura Camera's in Japan on July 6 1979, while on tour with Harry Belafonte. I was joking that I wanted it as it cost $750 U.S. and it had not yet been introduced to North America. (I ended up trading him a Bryston 3B for it)

When it was introduced they used Rick Neilson (Cheap Trick) as the spokesman. He was depicted beside a Bullet train in Japan with his headphones on and proclaimed: "I can still hear the music on this cassette over the sound of the speeding train." There is an onboard speaker so you don't have to use Headphones to initially check tapes – or put up with the noise of a Bullet train - LoL.

The playback sound, metres, heads, casing – everything is of Professional Studio level. It is akin to the Nagra reel-to-reel portable deck in quality!

I used it when I played in bands on the road to:
1. To record our gigs to listen the next day for self-improvement. Also, 4 of the tracks recorded on this deck were included in our record album – live off the floor.
2. To flawlessly provide music for the audience when we were on a break between sets. We weren't worried about it being stolen in our absence because our axiom was: "If the music stopped, we knew it wasn't the deck so we better get downstairs fast! ……. Because somebody stole it" - LoL.

You may say it can't be a Walkman because it is too big. Research it and you will see it is the first truly portable cassette deck made and was called 'The Walkman'. Mine has not been played since the '80s and when I tried it recently, it did eat some tapes, though it played well on the rest. Still, it will need adjustment and cleaning to bring it back to glory. NOTE: Do not try to adjust this deck yourself as the screws are the tiniest Jewellers screws and there are many micro-parts. As I said, it was meant to be Studio-quality.


Website functionality and reviews:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtjqF70F5wI repair of TC-D5M (same but takes metal tapes)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtjqF70F5wI - YouTube operational tutorial

https://www.sony.net/Fun/design/history/1970.html - History TC-D5 (look at the difference in 1979)

https://www.hifishark.com/search?q=sony+tc-d5 - World prices – a few years newer than mine

On Nov 28 20I8 I researched pricing on e-bay.ca e-bay.com Amazon.ca Amazon.com Kijiji (all of Canada). The few prices I found (of the working ones with no or few accessories), were priced between $667 USD to $800 USD. The ones that were not working were between $400 and $520 CDN. I believe I am offering this unique vintage product at a below average price.

Additional Information:

May 28, 19 4:38pm


I have all manuals and receipts, as well as: leather carrying case an enhanced power supply (will probably need a new one though as the plug to the deck is intermittent due to a wrong-sized input jack) and /or 2 X D-size batteries.

The Walkman turns 35: What was the first song you played on one?

Before there was an iPod, there was the Sony Walkman, and Tuesday marks the 35th anniversary since it first went on sale on July 1, 1979. Thanks to a frustrated Japanese executive, kids suddenly had the freedom to listen to their favorite music tapes anywhere instead of lugging around a boombox.

Slap a tape in that boxy yellow contraption, and you could nod and pretend you were listening to Mom and Dad while hair metal was cranked up to ear-splitting volume. Slip those fuzzy headphones on, and you no longer had to be subjected to the tyranny of your parents' oldies cassette on long car rides.

They cost $49.95 when they first came out in 1979, the equivalent of $442 today. But no price was too high for being the first kid in your neighborhood cool enough to have one, especially if it had mega bass and auto reverse. There were even versions that played CDs.

The present generation may regard the Walkman as something unearthed in an archaeological dig, but Sony sold hundreds of millions of them in the 1980s and 1990s before Steve Jobs made everyone toss them in the back of the closet. They had their drawbacks, as known by anyone who might have had their favorite Run-D.M.C. tape eaten by one in sixth grade (still mad).

But they also bring back memories. There was no "shuffle" option on them, so when you had a favorite tape, it stayed usually wedged in there for weeks. (Either that or it actually was wedged in there, and no amount of mashing it with a screwdriver could get it out.)

The anniversary of the Walkman has many thinking back to that lucky day they got one, and the songs that got heavy rotation on theirs. During TODAY's Take on Tuesday, Tamron Hall and Willie Geist asked viewers to share their faves:

The history of the Walkman: 35 years of iconic music players

We take portable music for granted these days. Any commuter in any big city in the world is more likely than not to have a pair of earbuds or headphones on as they walk, bike, or ride to their destination. The thing is, personal portable music didn’t exist for most of human history, at least not in any mainstream fashion. Not until the Sony Walkman came along.

The first of Sony’s iconic portable cassette tape players went on sale on this day, July 1st, back in 1979 for $150. As the story goes, Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka got the wheels turning months before when he asked for a way to listen to opera that was more portable than Sony’s existing TC-D5 cassette players. The charge fell to Sony designer Norio Ohga, who built a prototype out of Sony’s Pressman cassette recorder in time for Ibuka’s next flight.

After a disappointing first month of sales, the Walkman went on to become one of Sony’s most successful brands of all time, transitioning formats over the years into CD, Mini-Disc, MP3 and finally, streaming music. Over 400 million Walkman portable music players have been sold, 200 million of them cassette players. Sony retired the classic cassette tape Walkman line in 2010, and was forced to pay a huge settlement to the original inventor of the portable cassette player, Andreas Pavel. But the name lives on today in the form of new MP3 players and Sony’s Walkman app. They heyday of the Walkman may be over, with kids today baffled and disgusted by the relative clumsiness of cassettes. But the habit it spawned — listening to music wherever and whenever you want — is bigger than ever.

The original Walkman portable cassette player, released July 1, 1979.

The first Walkman with rechargeable batteries, slimmer than its predecessors.

Sony introduced Digital Audio Tapes (DAT) in 1987. This Walkman audio recorder/player followed in 1990.

The iconic ‘Yellow Monster’ Walkman of the 1990s was actually released in 1988.

Sony introduced the MiniDisc (MD) as its new audio format in 1992, as well as this MD player Walkman.

By 1996, four years after it introduced the MiniDisc, sony had slimmed its Walkman players considerably.

Sony’s first ‘Discman’ was released in 1984, but the company canned the name and replaced it with ‘CD-Walkman’ in 1999.

Sony began using flash memory in the early 2000s. This 2003 Walkman features both 256 MB of built-in flash memory and expandable memory cards.

Sony’s flagship MP3 Walkman from 2004 came with 20 GB of storage and offered 30 hours of continuous playback. But at $400, it was too pricey to compete seriously with the iPod ($299).

Sony says this MP3 player, released in 2005, was inspired by a bottle of perfume. It has 512 MB of storage.

Sony’s first Walkman phone, the W200 released in 2007, came with a Walkman key that enabled users to play MP3, MPEG-4, H263 audio on their phones.

Sony’s first touchscreen Walkman, the NW-X series, debuted at CES in 2009. It failed to set the market on fire.

The first high-resolution audio player in Walkman history, the NW-F880 series was released in 2013.

Sony was so excited to show off its waterproof, ultra-portable Walkman MP3 headphones, it sold them in containers of water as a promotion.

What Sony’s Walkman looks like today. It’s come a long way from 1979.


The first Walkman prototype was built from a modified Sony Pressman, [8] a compact cassette recorder designed for journalists and released in 1977. [9] [ failed verification ]

The metal-cased blue-and-silver Walkman TPS-L2, the world's first low-cost personal stereo, went on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979, and was sold for around ¥33,000 (or $150.00). [10] Though Sony predicted it would sell about 5,000 units a month, it sold more than 30,000 in the first two months. [8]

The Walkman was followed by a series of international releases as overseas sales companies objected to the wasei-eigo name, it was sold under several names, including Soundabout in the United States, Freestyle in Australia and Sweden, and Stowaway in the UK. [11] [12] Eventually, in the early 1980s, Walkman caught on globally and Sony used the name worldwide. The TPS-L2 was introduced in the US in June 1980. [8]

The 1980s was the decade of the intensive development of the Walkman lineup. In 1981 Sony released the second Walkman model, the WM-2, which was significantly smaller compared to the TPS-L2 thanks to "inverse" mounting of the power-operated magnetic head and soft-touch buttons. The first model with Dolby noise-reduction system appeared in 1982. [13] The first ultra-compact "cassette-size" Walkman was introduced in 1983, model WM-20, with a telescopic case. This allowed even easier carrying of a Walkman in bags or pockets. [14] The first model with autoreverse was released in 1984. [15]

In October 1985, the WM-101 model was the first in its class with a "gum stick" rechargeable battery. [14] In 1986 Sony presented the first model outfitted with remote control, as well as one with a solar battery (WM-F107).

Within a decade of launch, Sony held a 50% market share in the United States and 46% in Japan. [16]

Two limited edition 10th anniversary models were released in 1989 (WM-701S/T) in Japan, made of brass and plated in sterling silver. Only a few hundred were built of each. [17] A 15th anniversary model was also made on July 1, 1994 with vertical loading, [18] and a 20th anniversary on July 1, 1999 with a prestige model.

By 1989, 10 years after the launch of the first model, over 100 million Walkmans had been sold worldwide. [19] 150 million units were manufactured by 1995. [20] By 1999, 20 years after the introduction of the first model, Sony sold 186 million cassette Walkmans. [21]

Portable compact disc players led to the decline of the cassette Walkman, [22] which was discontinued in Japan in 2010. [23] The last cassette-based model available in the US was the WM-FX290W - [24] [25] this model was first released 2004. [26]

Second generation budget Walkman model from 1983 (model WM-4)

WM-F5 "Okinawa" Sports Walkman

WM-75 Walkman "Sports" model (1985)

Walkman professional with Dolby B and C, model WM-D6C, 1985–1999

WM-F404, high-end model with TV tuner (1990)

A "Sport" Walkman model from the early 90s

A 90s Walkman with a combined radio

Mid-1990s Walkman (WM-EX116) with supplied headphones

Sony Walkman WM-EX194 (2004)

The marketing of the Walkman helped introduce the idea of "Japanese-ness" into global culture, synonymous with miniaturization and high-technology. [27] The "Walk-men" and "Walk-women" in advertisements were created to be the ideal reflections of the viewing audience. [28]

A major component of the Walkman advertising campaign was personalization of the device. Prior to the Walkman, the common device for portable music was the portable radio, which could only offer listeners standard music broadcasts. [29] Having the ability to customize a playlist was a new and exciting revolution in music consumption. Potential buyers had the opportunity to choose their perfect match in terms of mobile listening technology. The ability to play one's personal choice of music and listen privately was a huge selling point of the Walkman, especially amongst teens, who greatly contributed to its success. [29] A diversity of features and styles suggested that there would be a product which was "the perfect choice" for each consumer. [30] This method of marketing to an extremely expansive user-base while maintaining the idea that the product was made for each individual "[got] the best of all possible worlds—mass marketing and personal differentiation". [30]

Culturally the Walkman had a great effect and it became ubiquitous. [31] According to Time, the Walkman's "unprecedented combination of portability (it ran on two AA batteries) and privacy (it featured a headphone jack but no external speaker) made it the ideal product for thousands of consumers looking for a compact portable stereo that they could take with them anywhere". [8] According to The Verge, "the world changed" on the day the Walkman was released. [32]

The Walkman became an icon in 1980s culture. [8] In 1986, the word "Walkman" entered the Oxford English Dictionary. [8] Millions used the Walkman during exercise, the marking the beginning of the aerobics craze. [8] Between 1987 and 1997, the height of the Walkman's popularity, the number of people who said they walked for exercise increased by 30%. [8] Other firms, including Aiwa, Panasonic and Toshiba, produced similar products, and in 1983 cassettes outsold vinyl for the first time. [8]

The Walkman has been cited to not only change people's relationship to music but also technology, due to its "solitary" and "personal" nature, as users were listening to their own music of choice rather than through a radio. It has been seen as a precursor of personal mainstream tech possessions such as personal computers or mobile phones. [33] Headphones also started to be worn in public. This caused safety controversies in the US, which in 1982 led to the mayor of Woodbridge, New Jersey banning Walkman to be worn in public due to pedestrian accidents. [34]

In the market, the Walkman's success also led to great adoption of the Compact Cassette format. Within a few years, cassettes were outselling vinyl records, and would continue to do so until the compact disc (CD) overtook cassette sales in 1991. [35] [36]

In German-speaking countries, the use of "walkman" became generic, meaning a personal stereo of any make, to a degree that the Austrian Supreme Court of Justice ruled in 2002 that Sony could not prevent others from using the term "walkman" to describe similar goods. It is therefore an example of what marketing experts call the "genericide" of a brand. [4]

A large statue of a Sports Walkman FM was erected in Tokyo's Ginza district in 2019 in celebration of the 40th anniversary. [37]

In 1989, Sony released portable Video8 recorders marketed as "Video Walkman", extending the brand name. In 1990 Sony released portable Digital Audio Tape (DAT) players marketed as "DAT Walkman". [38] It was extended further in 1992 for MiniDisc players with the "MD Walkman" brand. From 1997, Sony's Discman range of portable compact disc (CD) players started to rebrand as "CD Walkman". [39]

On December 21, 1999, Sony launched its first digital audio players, under the name "Network Walkman" (alongside players under the VAIO name). The first player, which used Memory Stick storage medium, was branded as "MS Walkman". [40] Most future models would use built-in solid-state flash memory. In 2000, the Walkman brand (everything ranging from cassettes to the Memory Stick players) was unified, and a new small icon, "W.", was made for the branding. [41] Later, Walkman-branded mobile phones were also made by the Sony Ericsson joint venture. [42]

Sony could not repeat the success of the cassette player in the 21st century digital audio player (DAP) market. Rival Apple's iPod range became a large success in the market, [43] and particularly hindered Walkman sales internationally. [44] [45] Walkman DAP's market share has been better domestically, but still only outsold iPods briefly in 2005 and the 2009-2010 period. [46] [47] Until 2007, Walkman DAPs and Hi-MD players required the use of SonicStage PC software.

Walkman portable digital audio and media players are the only Walkman-branded products still being produced today - although the "Network" prefix is for long no longer being used, the model numbers still carry the "NW-" prefix.

Sony looks back at Walkman success

TOKYO | When the Sony Walkman went on sale 30 years ago, it was shown off by a skateboarder to illustrate how the portable cassette-tape player delivered music on-the-go — a totally innovative idea back in 1979.

Today, Sony Corp. is struggling to reinvent itself and win back its reputation as a pioneer of razzle-dazzle gadgetry once exemplified in the Walkman, which last week had its 30th anniversary marked with a special display at Sony’s corporate archives.

The Japanese electronics and entertainment company lost $1.02 billion in the fiscal year ended March — its first annual loss in 14 years — and is expecting more red ink this year.

The manufacturer, which also makes Vaio personal computers and Cyber-shot cameras, hasn’t had a decisive hit like the Walkman for years and has taken a battering in the portable music player market to Apple Inc.’s iPod.

Sony has sold 385 million Walkmans worldwide in 30 years as it evolved from playing cassettes to compact disks then minidisks — a smaller version of the CD — and finally digital files. Apple has sold more than 210 million iPods worldwide in eight years.

There is even some speculation in the Japanese media that Sony should drop the Walkman brand — a name associated with Sony’s rise from its humble beginnings in 1946 with just 20 employees to one of the first Japanese companies to successfully go global.

“The Walkman’s gap with the iPod has grown so definitive, it would be extremely difficult for Sony to catch up, even if it were to start from scratch to try to boost market share,” said Kazuharu Miura, analyst with Daiwa Institute of Research in Tokyo.

Mr. Miura believes Sony can hope to be unique with its PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable video game consoles, but it has yet to offer outstanding electronics products that exploit such strengths.

The Nikkei, Japan’s top business newspaper, reported recently that Sony set up a team to develop a PSP with cell-phone features. But Mr. Miura said the idea was nothing new, since the iPhone, another Apple product, has gaming features, and Sony isn’t likely to have such a product soon.

Earlier this year, Sony Chief Executive Officer Howard Stringer announced a new team of executives and promised to bring together the hardware electronics and entertainment content divisions of Sony’s sprawling empire — an effort that he said will turn around Sony and restore its profitability.

But Mr. Stringer, and his predecessors, have been making that same promise for years.

When the iPod began selling with sizzle several years ago, a Japanese reporter asked Shizuo Takashino, one of the developers of the original Walkman, why Sony hadn’t come up with the idea. After all, the iPod seemed like something that should have been a trademark Sony product.

Mr. Takashino had been showing reporters the latest Walkman models, which played proprietary files. Sony has been criticized for sticking to such proprietary formats. One major reason for the iPod’s massive popularity was that it played MP3 files, which are widely used for online music and compatible with many devices.

In a special display at Tokyo’s Sony Archive building that opened Wednesday to commemorate the Walkman’s 30-year history, an impassioned Akio Morita, Sony’s co-founder, speaks to employees in a 1989 video to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Walkman.

“We can deliver a totally new kind of thrill to people with the Walkman,” said the silver-haired Mr. Morita, proudly wearing a gray factory-worker jacket and surrounding himself with dozens of colorful Walkman machines. “We must make more and more products like the Walkman.”

Mr. Morita acknowledges in the video that the Walkman doesn’t feature any groundbreaking technology but merely repackaged old ones — but did so in a nifty creative way. And it started with a small simple idea — enjoying music anywhere, without bothering people around you.

The original Walkman was as big as a paperback book, and weighed 14 ounces. It wasn’t cheap, especially for those days, costing $340.

But people snatched it up.

Other names were initially tried for international markets like “soundabout” and “stowaway.” Sony soon settled on Walkman. The original logo had little feet on the “a” letters of the word.

Many, even within Sony, were skeptical of the idea because earphones back then were associated with unfashionable, hard-of-hearing old people. But Mr. Morita was convinced he had a hit.

The archival exhibit shows other Sony products that have been discontinued or lost out to competition over the years — the Betamax video cassette recorder, the Trinitron TV, the Aibo dog-shaped robotic pet.

The Walkman exhibit, which runs through Dec. 25, shows models that are still on sale, some about the size of a lighter, that play digital music files.

Also showcased are messages from Mr. Morita and his partner Masaru Ibuka, who always insisted a company could never hope to be a winner by imitating rivals but only by dashing stereotypes.

“All we can do is keep going at it, selling our Walkman, one at a time,” said Sony spokeswoman Yuki Kobayashi. “Thirty years is a milestone for Sony. But we hope the Walkman won’t be seen as just a piece of history.”

Watch the video: Sonys proto-Walkman that went to the moon (May 2022).