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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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10 Things You Didn’t Know Your Video Game Console Could Do
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Modern video game consoles are all-in-one entertainment machines that offer you the ability to not just play games but to watch movies, log onto Facebook, turn on your television, and engage in a whole host of other built-in benefits to make your gaming experience better. Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know your video game console could do.

1. TURN ON YOUR TV.

Instead of turning on your TV and PlayStation 4 separately, you can actually turn them both on at the same time with HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) via Device Link. Simply connect your PS4 to an HDMI CEC-enabled TV. Once connected, go to settings on your PS4, then select “System,” and then check the box for “Enable HDMI Device Link.” That's it!

Every time you turn on your PS4, it will automatically turn your TV on at the same time. The feature will even automatically switch your TV’s input to PS4, if you’re watching something else like cable TV.

Both the Nintendo Switch and Xbox One have this feature, too. It’s under “Match TV Power State” in “TV Settings” on the Nintendo Switch and “Devices” under “TV & OneGuide” in settings on the Xbox One. Just make sure your TV supports HDMI-CEC and that it's enabled.

In addition, there are many streaming devices that utilize this same feature, including Google’s Chromecast, Roku, and Apple TV.

2. PLAY GAMES FROM OTHER COUNTRIES.

The Nintendo Switch is a region-free console, which means that you can play any game from around the world, though the video game company limits your access to the country where your account is based. However, with a special (and simple) workaround, you can visit any eShop from any country of your choosing, without actually having to be physically there.

Simply create a new account and choose the country you want to be associated with when prompted. Once your account is verified with a new email address and a profile is made, you can browse and play any video game from the region of your choice. In addition, you can add multiple profiles to one account to make it easier to switch between countries. Just be aware that the eShop will be in the country’s native language (which could pose a problem if you want a Japanese game, but can't read the language).

3. BROWSE YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS.

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While the Nintendo Switch doesn’t have a dedicated web browser, there is a clever workaround to access Facebook and Twitter as a “secret” web portal. Under the “Users” tab in “System Settings,” you can access your social media accounts under the “Post on Social Networks” tab. Once prompted and logged in, you can access anything posted on Twitter or Facebook, including YouTube videos and news articles.

4. PLAY IN WINDOWS 10.

One of the best things about the Xbox One is that Microsoft manufactures both its hardware and software, which mean it’s easily integrated into other Microsoft platforms—namely, Windows 10. Just make sure your Xbox One is set to game streaming by going into "Settings," then “Preferences,” and “Xbox App Connections,” and then check “Allow Game Streaming To Other Devices.”

Now go to the Xbox One app that comes pre-installed on Windows 10. If you don’t have the app on your computer, you can download it for free from the Microsoft Store. Once you open the app, connect your Xbox One to your PC under the “Connect” tab. Add the device via the same Wi-Fi network. Now you can play any Xbox One game on any PC or tablet, as long as it’s running Windows 10.

5. ACCESS YOUR SMARTPHONE.

The PS4 was built with smartphones in mind, and has several useful features that connect the console to your iPhone or Android. Once you download the PlayStation App from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, just sign in with the number displayed on the TV and you can use your smartphone as a second screen or as a trusty keyboard accessory when it’s paired with your PS4 via the same Wi-Fi network. It comes in handy when typing, so you don’t have to awkwardly “hunt and peck” on the console’s virtual keyboard with your controller.

You can also use the PlayStation App to buy and download games when you’re away from home, or if your PS4 is in standby mode. Simply browse through the PlayStation Store on the app and your newly purchased games and movies will automatically start downloading to your PS4 via the Internet. You can even remotely turn your console on or off from the app.

6. SHARE GAMES.

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Although most games aren’t made with physical discs anymore, you can still share your favorite Xbox games with your family members and friends in the same household with a neat feature called “Gameshare.” You can even Gameshare with a close friend who lives elsewhere. However, Gameshare only works with two Xbox Ones at a time and only with digitally purchased games.

Just have your Xbox One profile added to a family member or close friend’s account with an Xbox Gamertag and password. While still signed into the other account, under settings go to “My Xbox,” then “My Home Xbox,” then select “Make this my Home Xbox.” Then have your friend or family member do the same thing on his or her Xbox One console. Now both profiles can access your digital library of games, as new content will be found in the “Ready To Install” section in “My Games & App.”

7. REFRESH YOUR FROZEN DASHBOARD WITHOUT GETTING UP.

Sometimes the Xbox One’s dashboard can become overwhelmed, which leads it to freeze or become otherwise unresponsive. Instead of getting up off the couch to restart the console, you can use a simple trick with the controller to reset the system.

Press and hold down the “LT” (Left Trigger) + “RT” (Right Trigger) + “Y” buttons at the same time for a few seconds and then release. The dashboard will refresh itself and reload every element on the home screen. Think of it as the Ctrl-Alt-Delete for your Xbox One.

8. PLAY PS4 GAMES ON PS VITA.

If you happen own a PlayStation Vita handheld device, you can use it to play PS4 games if your TV is in use, or if you’re in another room. Sign in to your PSN ID on your PS Vita and enter a code and you can access and play games while on the same Wi-Fi network.

9. PAIR JOY-CON WITH YOUR ANDROID, PC, OR MAC.

You can pair the Nintendo Switch’s Joy-Cons or Pro Controller with any Android, PC, or Mac device (according to TechCrunch, iOS has its own specifications and isn’t natively compatible). Just hold on to the small sync button on the top of either controller and wait for its green light to start flashing. Then go to your device and look for the Joy-Con in your device’s Bluetooth settings. Now you can play mobile games on your device with a physical controller instead of a virtual D-pad or keyboard.

10. PLAY BREAKOUT.

'Breakout' Atari game cartridge
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Nintendo is known for building fun Easter eggs into some of its games. The video game company even hid a few clever little secrets in the New Nintendo 3DS—namely, the ability to play a version of Breakout for free.

If you go to the handheld device's Internet browser and then go to “New Page,” you can unlock the retro game when you use the stylus to tap out the theme to Super Mario Bros. on the lower screen. The “Bookmarks” label will change to “Stage Select.” Now choose any of the options below, and the screen will automatically change to play a quick game of Breakout.

Fun fact: Before they co-founded Apple, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs helped create and design Breakout when Jobs worked at Atari during the early 1970s.

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Here's What Actually Happens When You're Electrocuted
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Benjamin Franklin was a genius, but not so smart when it came to safely handling electricity, according to legend. As SciShow explains in its latest video, varying degrees of electric current passing through the body can result in burns, seizures, cessation of breathing, and even a stopped heart. Our skin is pretty good at resisting electric current, but its protective properties are diminished when it gets wet—so if Franklin actually conducted his famous kite-and-key experiment in the pouring rain, he was essentially flirting with death.

That's right, death: Had Franklin actually been electrocuted, he wouldn't have had only sparks radiating from his body and fried hair. The difference between experiencing an electric shock and an electrocution depends on the amount of current involved, the voltage (the difference in the electrical potential that's driving the current), and your body's resistance to the current. Once the line is crossed, the fallout isn't pretty, which you can thankfully learn about secondhand by watching the video below.

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