Gadget Freak: The Tune-Filled Story Of The Walkman

June 10, 2015


Let us take you to a time, a time long, long ago when there were no iPods to roam the Earth and mobile phones packed with music apps around every corner. Even before these neat gadgets and apps, there was a gizmo that provided humans with background music every time they were on the go – the famed Walkman. Everything has to start somewhere, and the birth of the legendary, now 36-year old Walkman changed how people experienced music forever.

The Birth Of The Walkman

The famed invention wasn’t a huge leap in technology and engineering, but it was a humongous jump in functionality.

The magnetic cassette technology had been around since the early 60’s and Sony became proficient in making miniature, well-designed electronic gizmos by that time.

A couple of years later, pre-recorded music tapes hit the world with storm (and pre-recorded thunder… get it?) and naturally, the genius people at Sony saw a way to incorporate all of those things into one brilliant invention, which only evolved to be better in time. However, how they came to the idea was a bit more spontaneous than planned.

Sony’s co-founder Masaru Ibuka always carried Sony’s bulky cassette recorder on his numerous business trips, and frankly, he got a bit sick of the thing. It just wasn’t all that practical for carrying around, so he asked Norio Ohga, the Executive Deputy President, to design a playback-only stereo version which could be used with headphones. And that’s exactly what he got – a high quality, compact music player. The company execs then saw the greatness in the small gadget and thought that listening to music while walking was a great idea everyone would love.

The Walkman TPS-L2


After ditching names like Sound-About and Stowaway, and settling for just one name for the product (since registering new un-copyrighted names in every country it was sold in turned out to be a great way to waste a lot of money), the Sony Corp. introduced the first ever Sony Walkman TPS-L2 on July 1, 1979 in Japan, and a new era began.

It was a 14-ounce, portable cassette player, with a slick blue and silver design, chunky buttons, headphones, a second earphone jack (so two people could use it at the same time) and a leather case. It was a massive hit, and by the same time next year – it literally took over the world.

Changing The World Note By Note

There’s no doubt that this little music player was a humongous hit. If you just think about the 80’s, the Walkman is one of the top three things that will cross your mind and for good reason, too. The decade might as well be called the Walkman era, since there almost was no young (or old) person that didn’t saw the amazing features it offered as godly. To be able to walk down the street and have the option of listening privately to your favorite tracks? Crazy!

In time, Sony added a bunch of new features to their lovechild, such as AM/FM receivers, auto-reverse and bass boost. There were also water-resistant Sport Walkmans, solar-powered Walkmans and Walkmans with not one but two cassette drives.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Like any technology, the life span of the beloved cassette didn’t last forever. As the incredibly fertile 80’s went on, they also gave birth to another brilliant invention which may sound a bit more familiar to some of you – the compact disc. But that’s another story.

The cassette format and with it, the amazing Walkman slowly began to plummet in popularity and functionality, but they stayed somewhere in our hearts, safely tucked away in a box of gizmo memorabilia. However, the impact the little blue-and-silver gadget made will forever be thought upon as one of the most influential and most beloved ones forever.