The Sony Walkman Was a Game Changer

Share This:

Sony WalkmanFor years, Sony was the leader in elegantly designed high-end consumer electronics products. On July 1, 1979, they introduced a product: the Walkman, a portable device that allowed people to listen to music while, well, walking.

To call the device revolutionary is a grand understatement.

In subsequent years, Sony continued to refine the product until it reduced the size of its new model, the WM-10, to that of the traditional plastic cassette case, which at the time was a tremendous breakthrough.

Credit for inventing the cassette tape is given to Lou Ottens, who had a background in engineering, and began working for the Philips corporation in 1952. Frustrated with the large reel-to-reel tape recording systems that were ubiquitous at the time, Ottens got to work on a recorder that, he hoped, would fit inside of a typical jacket pocket.

By 1963 Ottens had developed a tape, enclosed in plastic casing, that was “smaller than a pack of cigarettes,” as an early advertising slogan put it.

Writing in the New York Times in 1983 about the original Walkman’s introduction two decades later, home electronics columnist Hans Fantel observed: “Nobody could have foreseen at the time that the new gadget would quickly grow into an international craze, a new way of experiencing music, and an occasional traffic hazard.”

It was compact and at $100 – equivalent to around $350 today – was reasonably affordable. Imagine: you could travel and listen to a dozen or so of your favorite songs in the palm of your hand! We want one!

Watch the introductory commercial for the WM-10

And this classic from 1981…

Related: Remember the Maxell “Blown-Away Guy”?

Best Classic Bands Staff

5 Comments so far

Jump into a conversation
  1. Keef
    #1 Keef 6 July, 2018, 23:34

    What an interesting commercial from the past! It’s fascinating how much technology has changed over the years. I love seeing these, keep up with the wonderful articles!

    Reply this comment
  2. Kevin
    #2 Kevin 2 July, 2019, 06:56

    My uncle was an import agent responsible for bringing the first Walkman players into the USA. He showed it to me and told me that with this device, “books-on-tape” were going to be huge. He said, “There is a tip for you, if you want to start a business.” But I was too cautious and decided to keep my desk job in a buraeucracy. What a missed opportunity!

    Reply this comment
  3. Baybluesman
    #3 Baybluesman 3 January, 2022, 21:41

    I still have my original Walkman, 40 years and counting, and it still plays flawlessly, as does practically all my audio equipment of that vintage.

    Heck, even my Dual turntable from 1978, after decades of use (rockin’ parties and all, in its , and my, younger days…. 😉 )

    Made when products were built to last, before planned obsolescence was the exception, rather than the norm.

    Reply this comment
  4. Jas
    #4 Jas 2 July, 2023, 00:59

    I would give anything to be able to still play all my cassettes in my car. I had many Sony Walkmans back in the day to play my cassettes. It went with me to the gym all the time. What a great piece of equipment. I wish they’d start making them again with Bluetooth capabilities.

    Reply this comment

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.