The Walkman retires at 30

Sony has finally retired the venerable Walkman. What a long and memorable trip it has been for what has become an iconic image of the 1980s and a device that has revolutionized music, technology and our lives. Today we get our music via our laptops, smartphones, tables, sunglasses and various versions of MP3 players – you can get an MP3 player for less than $30 at CVS now! With music moving wholeheartedly into the digital age, is it any surprise that getting our music on tapes is no longer a viable business model?

With this retirement ceremony, we should reflect on all that the Walkman has done. For those of you old enough, do you remember how we listened to our music prior to the Walkman? I sort of remember…first it was not portable, unless you consider a boom box as portable. It certainly was not personal, the aforementioned boom box was not intended to keep the music personal and private! Or we could listen in our cars or at home on our refrigerator sized stereo. The main form factors were either the vinyl record or the tape…some tried the 8 tracks.

When Sony came out with the Walkman they were introducing a new product category, and while we could not imagine not having portable music, at the time represented a leap of faith that the device would sell. Did it ever. The notion of portable entertainment was revolutionized by the Walkman. Sony taught us that we could have our music and radio with us at all times, as long as we had fresh batteries we could always put our headphones on and “tune” out the world and enjoy our entertainment. What can be delivered and transported in one’s device has only expanded – who would have thought 10 years ago you could have an app that would monitor your personal training regiment?

Today we all expect to be able to carry our entertainment in a portable device, we have Sony and the Walkman to thank for starting this revolution. Happy retirement!

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