It has been 40 years since July 1, 1979 – The day SONY released the ‘Walkman TPS-L2’ in Japan. The portable stereo music playback machine could be held in one hand or clipped to a belt, held standard audio cassettes and changed the way we listened to music!
The Walkman was not the first portable music system, however. Small transistor radios grew popular in the 1950s, but their main drawback was that the listener was only able to pick up broadcasted stations, meaning they had no choice on what they were going to listen to; it was whatever playlist the disc jockey had decided on.
The Walkman came about when SONY needed to create a way for their co-founder Masaru Ibuka to listen to opera music on his next international flight. Instead of starting from scratch, SONY took something of theirs already in existence – the TCM-100B Pressman tape recorder (mainly used by journalists), removed the recording circuitry, added stereo amplifiers and two headphone ports (so two people could listen together), plus a pair of lightweight, foam-encased stereo headphones – and the Walkman was born.
It wasn’t always called a Walkman outside of Japan. In Sweden, it was named Freestyle, Stowaway in the UK, and Soundabout in the US. But on a visit to SONY in Paris, the SONY Chairman was asked by an employee’s children when they could get their Walkman, and the Japanese name stuck.
Did you have a Walkman?