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Monday, October 25, 2010

What the Walkman took from us

Sony have announced that they're stopping production of the Walkman. They presumably think that having sold 220,000,000 units they would be pushing their luck carrying on. I can clearly remember my first encounter with the miracle that was the original Walkman. It was 1979 and I'd gone to Stewart Copeland's flat in Shepherd's Bush to interview him. The Police had just come back from Japan and he produced this blue house brick of a tape player and handed the spongy earphones to me. "Put these on," he said to me with the air of a man who'd been performing the same party trick with all kinds of people since his return. I can't remember what music it was playing but I can clearly recall my breath being taken away by the realisation that all this sound was emanating from such a small device. Compared to that one giant leap the move to the iPod was just a minor adjustment. The Walkman changed things so completely that I still don't think that we realise the full extent of its impact thirty years later. With its arrival music stopped being what it had primarily been since the dawn of time, which was a social thing.