RIP, Sony Walkman

Last Friday, Sony announced the end of the Walkman Era -- a period that lasted more than three decades, defining the personal music listening experience for pretty much everyone in my generation (I was born a year before the Walkman was). Sony will no longer produce the portable cassette-based Walkman, though they are still selling the CD-based Discman and MiniDisc Walkman. The Walkman was first introduced on July 1, 1979. Every five years (until 1999), Sony introduced an "anniversary model" Walkman. What happened next, according to Wikipedia:

However, cassette Walkman innovation would come to an end as during its 25th Anniversary, Sony chose to not introduce another limited run cassette model but instead, brought out the hard disk based NW-HD1 in 2004 to officially augur the death of the compact cassette. (Sony did release two anniversary models in 2003, but they were MiniDisc players — see below.) The last play-only cassette Walkman to be introduced (in North America, at least) was the WM-FX290, first sold in 2002, which also featured digital tuning, AM, FM, TV and weather band radio, operating on a single AA battery. In Canada, at least (where, like all portable radios distributed in that country, the WM-FX290 lacked access to TV and weather bands) this device appears to have ceased production as of May, 2006. In August 2006, Sony Canada began selling cassette Walkman personal stereos again, but this time they were only offering a basic model, the WM-FX197.

And another technological marvel bites the dust, with little ceremony, and with the news buried on a Friday.

The model I remember best looked a lot like the one pictured above (model WM-FX421), but was a few years earlier and lacked the LCD screen. I carried it through every day of high school, and kept a couple of mix tapes in my locker, along with a collection of REM and Simon & Garfunkel tapes handed down from my brother. I remember wondering why in the world my Walkman had so many radio presets, since there were only two or three radio stations I'd ever consider listening to. Anyway -- it worked great, I brought it to college, and I used that thing every day on my walks to and from campus. It was the machine that introduced me to the Pixies, my all-time favorite band. It was a very personal device, and it lasted much longer than any iPod I've ever had (and yeah, I've had a lot of iPods). I still have that Walkman -- it's in my basement. It still works.

What's Your Walkman Story?

The Walkman has inspired a lot of personal stories. My favorite so far is Stefan Sagmeister's personal account of listening to the Police album Synchronicity on a Walkman while riding a motorcycle -- one of his happiest memories (see his story here). What's your Walkman story?

Further reading: The Story Behind the Sony Walkman, Walkman History 101, and The Walkman Turns 30.

(Via CrunchGear.)

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iStock
Scientists Have Launched an Earthquake Emoji Design Competition
iStock
iStock

There’s no denying that emojis have changed the way we communicate. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words—and sometimes a thumbs up or crying face emoji will suffice. But could an earthquake emoji help save lives?

A group of scientists thinks it certainly couldn’t hurt. As The Seattle Times reports, a self-proclaimed #emojiquake steering committee is hosting an open competition for emoji earthquake designs that could be used to swiftly spread news of an imminent earthquake to diverse populations.

“We need an emoji so we can communicate quickly with much larger groups of people,” Dr. Sara McBride, a disaster researcher who works with the U.S. Geological Survey, told The Seattle Times. “People can process pictures faster than words, and not everybody is fluent in English.”

As McBride pointed out on Twitter, there are existing emojis to represent other weather events—like tornados and cyclones—but none to depict an earthquake.

Social media has proven instrumental in alerting large populations about impending natural disasters, giving them time to seek shelter or take proper precautions. According to the BBC, Japan and Mexico both rely on earthquake alerts sent to their digital devices via early warning technology.

The winning design will be chosen by popular vote on Twitter, and the steering committee will work with Unicode Consortium—essentially the world’s emoji gatekeepers—to get the earthquake emoji approved for widespread use on phones, computers, and social media.

You don’t have to be a scientist or graphic designer to enter the contest. The committee has already received more than 40 submissions, but entries will be accepted until July 14. Designs can be emailed to emojiquake@gmail.com, but be sure to check out the guidelines and size specifications on the #emojiquake website.

[h/t The Seattle Times]

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Apeel
New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration or preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangoes, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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