Walkman

Walkman
Walkman logo.svg
Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2.JPG
Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2 from 1979
ManufacturerSony
TypePortable media player
Retail availabilityJuly 1, 1979 – October 25, 2010 (Compact Cassette Tape Edition); Approximately 1979 (AM/FM radio); July 1, 1984 – present (all other editions)
Units sold385 million (as of March 31, 2009)[1]

Walkman is a series of portable audio players and some Sony Ericsson mobile phones manufactured by Sony. The original Walkman, released in 1979, was a portable cassette player that changed listening habits by allowing people to listen to music on the move.[2][3] It was devised by Sony cofounder Masaru Ibuka, who felt Sony's existing portable player was too unwieldy and expensive. A prototype was built from a modified Sony Pressman, a compact tape recorder designed for journalists.

The Walkman was followed by a series of international releases; as overseas sales companies objected to the Japanese-English name, it was sold under several names, including Soundabout in the United States, Freestyle in Sweden, and Stowaway in the UK.[4] Eventually "Walkman" caught on globally and Sony used the name worldwide. Sony continues to use the "Walkman" brand for most of its portable audio devices.

Development

Magnetic cassette technology was developed in 1963 by the Dutch electronics firm Philips. In the late 1960s, the introduction of prerecorded cassette tapes made it possible to listen to tapes of music on car stereos, though vinyl remained the most popular format for home listening.[5]

Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka used Sony's bulky TC-D5 cassette recorder to listen to music while traveling for business. He asked executive deputy president Norio Ohga to design a playback-only stereo version optimized for headphone use.[5] The first prototype was built from a modified Sony Pressman, a mono cassette recorder.[5]

The metal-cased blue-and-silver Walkman TPS-L2, the world's first low-cost portable stereo, went on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979 and was sold for around ¥39,433.58 (or $150.00), or ¥57,109.02 (or $498.66) adjusted for inflation.[6] Though Sony predicted it would sell about 5,000 units a month, it sold more than 50,000 in the first two months.[5] Sony introduced the Walkman in the US as the Soundabout and the UK as the Stowaway; as developing new, copyright-free names in every country was expensive, Sony settled on Walkman, a play on Pressman.[5] The TPS-L2 was introduced in the U.S. in June 1980.[5]

In October 2010, it was reported that manufacturing of the cassette-based Walkman would cease in Japan, but that Sony would continue production of the device in China to accommodate users abroad, including in the United States, Europe, and some Asian countries.[7] Once the final units are sold, they will not be available from the manufacturer. With the increase popularity of the MP3 players, it was the CD (compact disc) player that originally caused the decline of the Walkman.[8] Sony still continues to make cassette-based Walkman devices in China for the US and other overseas markets; however, they were discontinued in Japan only on October 23, 2010.[9]

The original idea for a portable stereo is credited to Brazilian-German inventor Andreas Pavel,[10] who patented the Stereobelt in 1977. Though Sony agreed to pay Pavel royalties, it refused to recognize him as the inventor of the personal stereo until a legal settlement in 2003.

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