Sony Walkman: Pocket-friendly music player turns 40

On July 1, 1979, Sony introduced TPS-L2 (Walkman) music player that revolutionalised the way people listen to the songs.

Though Sony Walkman wasn't the first portable music player to hit the market, it was the most pocket-friendly in literal terms. It came with a compact design and also cost less (for around ¥39,433.58 or $150.00) compared to rival brands, making it the crowd favourite.

Walkman was the brainchild of Masaru Ibuka, co-founder of Sony. Ibuka felt that the music players in the late seventies were too bulky and expensive. His team got into action and created a prototype from a modified Sony Pressman, which was designed specifically for journalists, so they can carry around to cover events.

Yes, it wouldn't fit in tight jeans easily, but Sony Walkman can be kept in a jacket or a coat pocket with ease. 

Back then, Sony wasn't sure, which moniker to use for the global market. It sold the device TPS-L2  as Soundabout in the United States, Freestyle in Australia and Sweden, and Stowaway in the UK. 


Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2; Picture credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Initially, Sony anticipated to sell around 5,000 units a month but ended up selling more than 50,000 units in two months. Rest, as they say, is history. 

As the demand grew globally in the early 1980s, Sony finally found a simple and catchy name- Walkman.  It was an instant hit among youth and it became so popular, the moniker became generic like Xerox (for photocopy) and Kleenex (for tissue paper).

Walkman not only ruled the markets in the eighties but also in nineties as Sony was quick enough to see the cassette trend waning and CDs (Compact Disks) gaining traction. Sony still continues to use the Walkman for its latest audio players even today.

However, Sony Walkman lost the battle to Apple iPod in 2001. The latter, too couldn't sustain for long. With the advent of iPhone and touch-screen mobiles in the late 2000s, the concept of owning a dedicated music player got lost among the consumers.

Now, smartphones come with up to 1TB storage (Samsung Galaxy S10+),which is more than enough to store thousands of songs. Also, with the availability of subscription-based services like Apple Music, Spotify and Google Play Music, the consumer need not require big storage on the phone at all, a good internet connection would suffice.

Having said that, Sony Walkman still continues to bring out nostalgia among the audiophiles and will remain an iconic device, which revolutionised the music world.

Check out the Sony's Walkman 40th anniversary video:

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