I am very much a child of the ’80s, with some memories of the late ’70s, even. I remember getting up to change the channel and adjusting the rabbit ears (this is what parents used to call remote control), to begging my mom for a full sized “boom box” so I could be cool like the other kids. I even remember my first pair of parachute pants — how proud I was of my abundance of zippers!
But the one memory from that time that will stick with me always was the “portable media player” known simply as the Sony Walkman. From the beginning, I owned a number of variations of the original. And if memory serves, I think I actually owned one of these monsters at one point. Yet as this BBC article highlights, one man’s cool is another kid’s “stone age memory.”
I have so many fond memories of the Walkman that I can hardly fit them into one article. From being able to operate the portable music device blindly with one hand as I was screaming down the hill, to carrying a backpack full of “copied” cassettes that I was able to get from friends, to scrounging for loose change so I could stay stocked with batteries to power my device. Overall, there are a lot of good memories there.
Copied music? Mind you this was long before the Internet or P2P file sharing. Back then, there was no RIAA “action group” to sue you for copying cassettes. Unless you were selling them, it was a moot issue as not all kids had money to burn on new cassettes. No, the big gripe of the day was still over VHS movie piracy and stealing cable. That is where most of the eyes were during that time. I digress.
The Sony Walkman is definitely a product that shows us just how far we have come. And despite the eventual onset of the portable CD players that came out, I actually hung onto variations of the Walkman during this period simply because they were MUCH less annoying to use while biking. Seriously, let me know how biking down the dirt trails works for ya when you are trying to swap a CD! With the portable cassette decks, all one needed was a fanny-pack and an easy open cassette door on their portable player. The rest sort of took care of itself.
Today, the Sony Walkman is not likely to ever regain any of its former glory. And to a degree, I see it going much the same way as the once famed Atari 2600 home gaming system. But as each of you looks down at your iPods and iPhones, MP3 players, and what have you… remember this. The Sony Walkman was there first and, in my mind, broke ground that no single device in the portable media space has yet to achieve.
While the MP3 player was a very big deal, it hardly holds a candle to blasting Van Halen as you are biking over to 7-11 after school for a Super Big Gulp.