October 23, 2019
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Science & Technology

Happy 40th birthday: Tokyo exhibit evokes Walkman nostalgia

By Nora Olive

Tokyo, Jul 19 (efe-epa).- Walking on the street and, at the same time, listening to music was inconceivable until the appearance of Walkman, a small audio player that introduced the revolutionary concept of portable music that charmed the world 40 years ago.

A retrospective exhibition in Tokyo's Ginza Sony Park goes over the history of Sony's cassette player that changed the way people listened to music, decades before the emergence of digital music and online platforms.

“When I bought my Walkman, using my allowance, I was so happy I could burst. I even wore headphones in the bath and on the dining table. My mother would scold me,” recalls architect Nobuo Araki in a text that is a part of the exhibition being held in the months of July and August this year.

Like Araki, dozens of Japanese celebrities have lent their memoirs for this interactive exhibit that allows attendees to read their stories and listen to the same music as them through different models of the iconic cassette player.

With the Walkman's launch in 1979, Sony introduced the concept that listening to music was no longer something that had to be experienced indoors, it could be personalized and carried everywhere.

"Walkman is the brand that creates the culture of bringing music out from home, and younger people can enjoy music outside due to Walkman. They can enjoy music more easily," Ryoichi Numata of Sony's communications team told EFE.

The blue and silver model TPS-L2 was released on July 1 that year in Japan at a price of around 39,000 yen, which at the time amounted to about $180, and sold more than 50,000 units in its first two months.

A second version of this model ended up becoming the best-selling version in Walkman's history, selling more than two million units worldwide.

The exhibition traces the history of the famous device from its release into the market, through its adaptation to the CD and the MiniDisc, and concluding with the more recent models using digital reproduction.

A display case showcases some 230 Walkman models that have gone on sale, some of them as iconic as the Walkman Sports WM-B52, known for its distinctive yellow color, as well as other lesser known ones that were released as limited versions.

“It is a very important brand to us, and we are still producing the Walkman,” said Numata. Currently, Sony's focus is on improving the quality of musical experience.

With high-resolution audio, up to 256 gigabytes of internal memory, and a price of more than 3,000 euros, the WM1Z produced in 2016 has come a long way since the days of cassettes, and is aimed at a more select audience.

After a run of three decades and having sold more than 200 million units worldwide, in 2010, Sony withdrew the Walkman's cassette player from the market, unable to survive the competition posed first by the CD and then digital music.

While portable music is a pleasure we have all enjoyed for years, Sony seeks to bring the nostalgia that is evoked when one is made to hark back to their old Walkman and relive those years when leaving home with headphones was a privilege. EFE-EPA


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