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?