Few tears were shed as Sony announced
plans to shelve most editions of its once ubiquitous Walkman cassette
player. The now-unwieldy device, which debuted in 1979, was credited with
beginning the portable music player craze and ushering the transition of
music fans "from listeners into users."
But many columnists, instead of penning fond farewells to the iPod's ancestor, are bidding the device good riddance, asking why it wasn't discontinued "years ago."
Still, there were a more than a few who waxed nostalgic about those tinny headphones blaring their favorite '80s tunes.
- A Very Subdued Goodbye for the Device The Wall Street Journal's Daisuke Wakabayashi wonders how the iconic device managed to disappear so
inconspicuously, especially in Japan. "Perhaps there was no raucous send-off in Japan,
because the Walkman has come to symbolize, fairly or unfairly, how Sony
relinquished its portable music player lead to Apple Inc.’s iPod on its
ways to taking a backseat to Steve Job’s seemingly endless string of
hits....To be sure, most consumer electronics products disappear with
barely a whimper....However, one can not help but think the Walkman and
its incredible success deserved more than a gadget’s equivalent of a
gold watch and a pat on the back."
- 'The Best Symbol of the Demise of Sony' Douglas A. McIntyre
at 24/7 Wall Street pens a eulogy for the Walkman and, in turn, Sony.
"There will be many histories of Sony written and most will question why
the company was not more aggressive to court music companies and create
its own iTunes store." Unfortunately, McIntyre argues, "Its digital
version of the Walkman came to market too late....The burial of the
Walkman signals the death of Sony’s own ambitions in the portable
multimedia device industry. It will be a case study at business schools
for decades to teach how a company can lose a market it has dominated."
- It Used to Be Amazing, Today It's 'Kind of a Joke' Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall
briefly recalls 1979. "It wasn't just that the device was small, though
it was -- not that much bigger than the size of a cassette itself. It
was that the headphones were so small and managed to provide -- right up
against your ear -- a surprising degree of audio fidelity. Remember,
holding a boombox up on your shoulder wasn't just an affectation. It was
the only real way to listen to music on the go."
- We Wouldn't Have the iPod Without It After making the requisite quips about the Walkman ("at least it outlived disco") CNet's Greg Sandoval
notes that the devices designers "likely influenced" the eventual
concept of the iPod. "[Steve] Jobs took portable music to a new level,
one where even [Sony] couldn't compete. Jobs wrapped his offering around
a cohesive and as yet unbeatable combination of hardware, software, and
digital retail. Sony knew hardware but was at best so-so in retail and a
total disaster at developing software (see Sony Connect).Some have
speculated that Sony's failure to keep up in a segment that the company
created was one of the reasons it has given the Walkman such a quiet
- 'Enough Nostalgia. Let's Recall the Bad Times.' NPR's Jacob Ganz remembers the music players with little fondness. "Walkman was all about smaller
and cheaper: headphones were light, but breakable. You could hear your
music on the go; so could everyone else, since the speakers in the
headphones were so bad that you had to crank the volume." It also had
the interesting effect of turning "music into a drug, boiled down into
capsules that were lower in purity but easier to acquire and manipulate.
The device itself may have been too rigid and flawed to survive
changing times, but the Walkman changed us from listeners into users."
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