Walkman logo.svg
Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2.JPG
Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2 from 1979
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 Sony brand tradename, originally used for portable audio cassette players from the late 1970s onwards. In more recent years, it has been used by Sony to market digital portable audio/video MP3 players, as well as a line of Sony Ericsson mobile phones introduced in 2005. The Sony Walkman was blue and silver which contained bulky buttons. It also included an extra audio jack so two people could listen at a time.

The original Walkman cassette player, released in 1979, changed music listening habits by allowing people to listen to their music whilst on the move. This could turn everyday tasks like commuting and running into pleasurable experiences, give commuters a sense of privacy, and add a soundtrack to urban surroundings.[2][3]

The Walkman was devised by Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka, and first built by audio-division engineers Nobutoshi Kiraha and Kozo Osohne in 1979. Ibuka loved listening to opera on his frequent trans-Pacific flights, but felt Sony's existing portable player - the notebook-sized, five pound TC-D5 - was far too unwieldy for everyday use, and far too expensive to ever sell successfully.[4] Sony thus began work on a portable player that could combine light weight and stereo sound with a price an ordinary consumer could afford.

The original prototype was built from a heavily modified Sony Pressman, a lightweight, compact tape recorder designed for journalists. By replacing the recording head with a playback head, and the speaker with an amplifier, Sony engineers were able to combine the portability of the Pressman with the stereo experience of the TC-D5. By using lower-end components to reduce the price, and enclosing the parts in an attractive casing, they had solved Ibuka's challenge.

The original idea for a portable stereo is ultimately credited to Brazilian-German inventor Andreas Pavel,[5] 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.

The player was released in Japan in 1979 as the "Walkman", a nod to the player's ancestor, the Pressman. This was followed by a series of international releases under several other names - "Soundabout" in the United States, "Freestyle" in Sweden, and "Stowaway" in the UK.[6] Overseas sales companies objected to the name “Walkman” as they felt it was too much of a Japanese-English name, and proposed others. Sony America initially suggested “Disco Jogger”, which was not chosen because it would have limited appeal.[7] Eventually "Walkman" caught on globally and Sony used the name worldwide.

The names "Walkman", "Pressman", "Watchman", "Scoopman", "Discman", and "Talkman" are trademarks of Sony, and have been applied to a wide range of portable entertainment devices manufactured by the company. Sony continues to use the "Walkman" brand name for most of their portable audio devices, after the "Discman" name for CD players was dropped in the late 1990s.


Some products of the Walkman line (2006).

The marketing of the Walkman introduced the idea of 'Japanese-ness' into global culture, synonymous with miniaturization and high-technology.[8] The "Walk-men" and "Walk-women" in advertisements were created to be the ideal reflections of the subject watching.[9] The advertising of the Sony Walkman served to portray it as a possession that was not only fashionable but culturally definitive.[citation needed] Owning one proved the owner was up to date and financially able to buy newly marketed commercial products, rather than waiting for them to become established and prices to fall.[citation needed]

The introductory United States advertising campaign for the Sony Walkman was created in the New York office of the international advertising agency, McCann-Erickson, who had won the Sony business the prior year. Madison Avenue creative executive Peter Hoffman, a young copywriter at McCann at the time whose creative work helped win the Sony business for the agency, created the introductory advertising for the Walkman with his campaign and tag line, "There's A Revolution In The Streets." It became one of the most successful launches of any new product in the past half-century.[citation needed]

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.[10] Having the ability to customize a playlist was a new and exciting revolution in music technology. Potential buyers had the opportunity to choose their perfect match in terms of mobile listening technology. The ability to play your own music and listen privately was a huge selling point of the Walkman, especially amongst teens, who greatly contributed to its success.[10] Despite "all this technological diversity, there must be one which is the perfect choice for you".[11] 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".[11] Sony accomplished the genius feat of mass individualized and targeted advertisement, enabling the Walkman to be recognized as an influential piece of technology.[citation needed]

Today, Walkman still maintains its role in popular sub culture, albeit a diminished one due to the large number of competitors in mobile audio devices today.[12] Through Sony's effort to "[sustain] certain meanings and practices which have become emblematic of--which seem to stand for or to represent--a distinctive 'way of life': the culture of late-modern, post-industrial societies",[13] the Walkman remains, largely due to effective advertisement, a symbol of the freedom and portability that Sony sought to convey among the younger demographic.[citation needed]

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