On Friday, Sony announced it would halt production on the Walkman, the portable listening device first introduced in 1979. At Horizons HQ, we greeted the news with an incredulous yelp – not because we didn't love the Walkman (we did, certainly), but because we had no idea the Walkman was still in production. After all, this is a device that has twice been nudged aside by next-generation tech, first by the Discman, and then by the MP3 player.
In fact, as far as we can see, the Walkman had only one leg up over its successors – it didn't skip or hop when you were exercising. But then again, the MP3 player doesn't skip or hop when you exercise, either. So, yeah: Walkman, your time had probably come. (Of course, Sony puts the Walkman name on devices other than tape players, but it's the cassette classic that's retiring.) An outpouring of sentiment for the bygone Walkman is spilling across the blogosphere today, mostly from bloggers with rosy memories of listening to vintage music on boxy, heavy portable machines.
Or not so rosy.
"The Walkman will be fondly remembered as the contraption which transformed listening to music from an activity conducted principally in one's own living room, perhaps with glass of brandy in hand, to a means of irritating other people on public transport," notes the BBC. "Chk. Chk. Chk. Chk. Chk. Chk. Chk. Chk. Chk. Chk. That was how it sounded when you sat next to a foam-headphoned user on the bus, overlaid with the faint but recognisable vocal inflections of Pat Benatar."
Over at NPR, Jacob Ganz pens a more appreciative eulogy for the Walkman. "Remember sitting in the backseat on car trips, foam earpads and magnetic hiss all the buffer you needed to keep family sing-alongs at bay? Remember mix tapes? Remember auto-reverse?" Ganz writes. But he acknowledges that it when it came to the Walkman, it wasn't all good times.
"If the Walkman enabled our current thousands-of-songs-in-your-pocket way of life by making music portable, it did so by sacrificing sound quality for size and convenience. Walkman was all about smaller and cheaper: headphones were light, but breakable," he notes. "You could hear your music on the go; so could everyone else, since the speakers in the headphones were so bad that you had to crank the volume."
Over to you. Got any fond Walkman memories?