Sony's Walkman turns 35 today, with Sony's TPS-L2 arriving in stores on July 1st 1979. It wasn't the first portable audio player -- that accolade goes to the Regency TR-1 of 1954 -- but in its day it was by far the most popular, selling hundreds of millions of different models over a two decade reign at the top.
My Walkman was my best friend during my teenage years. It pains me to be unable to recall the model number -- it feels like a betrayal considering the years of loyal service it provided me with. I took it with me everywhere, painstakingly crafting dozens upon dozens of mix tapes recorded from the radio or from my older brother's CDs. While the tracklists now seem cringeworthy -- you can only legitimately defend Sum 41 until a certain age -- the Walkman itself is intrinsically linked to some of my formative adult memories.
The day that always sticks out for me was a rainy trip to the seaside town of Southend when I was about 14. I was in absolute "moody teenager mode" -- headphones in, trailing behind my parents as I pensively looked out at the rolling waves as they hit the grey stoney beach. I may have been in a denim suit, and the music playing may have been questionable, but with my birds nest mullet blowing in the wind and my battered Converse digging in the sand, I thought I was cool as fuck. I had my music, I had my bubble and it was helping me to define the adult I wanted to grow up to be.
I didn't quite get my low slung guitar to Wembley stadium, but the memory is still a fond one.
No reign at the top is eternal, and the Walkman's popularity eventually began to decline. The CD player tried hard, but those things were bloody delicate. The Mini Disc player came along, and we all shrugged. And then the MP3 player came along, and this digital malarky started making sense. And then the iPod came along and...well, you know what happened then.
But there's still something magical about the Walkman, the first device to truly liberate personally-curated music from the confines of the living room or bedroom out into the outside world. In this age of all-you-can-eat music streaming services like Spotify, and the instant gratification of an iTunes download, there's something satisfying about the effort you had to put in to make a mixtape, or to guesstimate where exactly on a cassette your favourite tracks were. Such a tangible link between the music and the listener is all-but lost on the kids of today.
So, over to you -- what's your favourite memory of the Walkman? Were you a mixtape master? Or are these rose-tinted glasses of mine selling the benefits of digital music short?
Image Credit: Rockheim / Flickr