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Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2 from 1979
|Type||Portable media player|
|Retail availability||July 1, 1979 - October 25, 2010 (Compact Cassette Tape Edition); Approximately 1979 (AM/FM radio); July 1, 1984 - present (all other editions)|
|Units sold||385 million (as of March 31, 2009)|
Walkman is a Sony brand tradename, originally used for portable audio cassette players from the late 1970s onwards. In more recent years, it has been used by Sony to market digital portable audio/video MP3 players, as well as a line of Sony Ericsson mobile phones introduced in 2005. The Sony Walkman was blue and silver which contained bulky buttons. It also included an extra audio jack so two people could listen at a time.
The original Walkman cassette player, released in 1979, changed music listening habits by allowing people to listen to their music in stereo whilst on the move. This could turn everyday tasks like commuting and running into pleasurable experiences, give commuters a sense of privacy, and add a soundtrack to urban surroundings.
The Walkman was devised by Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka, and first built by audio-division engineers Nobutoshi Kiraha and Kozo Osohne in 1979. Ibuka loved listening to opera on his frequent trans-Pacific flights, but felt Sony's existing portable player - the notebook-sized, five pound TC-D5 - was far too unwieldy for everyday use, and far too expensive to ever sell successfully. Sony thus began work on a portable player that could combine light weight and stereo sound with a price an ordinary consumer could afford.
The original prototype was built by modifying the Sony Pressman, a lightweight, compact tape recorder designed for journalists. By removing the recording circuit and speaker from the Pressman design and replacing them with a stereo amplifier, Sony engineers were able to combine the lightweight portability of the Pressman with the stereo experience of the TC-D5. By using lower-end components to reduce the price, and enclosing the parts in an attractive casing, they had solved Ibuka's challenge.
The original idea for a portable stereo is ultimately credited to Brazilian-German inventor Andreas Pavel, who patented the Stereobelt in 1977. Though Sony agreed to pay Pavel royalties, it refused to recognize him as the inventor of the personal stereo until a legal settlement in 2003.
The player was released in Japan in 1979 as the "Walkman", a nod to the player's ancestor, the Pressman. This was followed by a series of international releases under several other names - "Soundabout" in the United States, "Freestyle" in Sweden, and "Stowaway" in the UK. Overseas sales companies objected to the name "Walkman" as they felt it was too much of a Japanese-English name, and proposed others. Sony America initially suggested "Disco Jogger", which was not chosen because it would have limited appeal. Eventually "Walkman" caught on globally and Sony used the name worldwide.
The names "Walkman", "Pressman", "Watchman", "Scoopman", "Discman", and "Talkman" are trademarks of Sony, and have been applied to a wide range of portable entertainment devices manufactured by the company. Sony continues to use the "Walkman" brand name for most of their portable audio devices, after the "Discman" name for CD players was dropped in the late 1990s.
The marketing of the Walkman introduced the idea of 'Japanese-ness' into global culture, synonymous with miniaturization and high-technology. The "Walk-men" and "Walk-women" in advertisements were created to be the ideal reflections of the subject watching. The advertising of the Sony Walkman served to portray it as a possession that was not only fashionable but culturally definitive. Owning one proved the owner was up to date and financially able to buy newly marketed commercial products, rather than waiting for them to become established and prices to fall.
The introductory United States advertising campaign for the Sony Walkman was created in the New York office of the international advertising agency, McCann-Erickson, who had won the Sony business the prior year. Madison Avenue creative executive Peter Hoffman, a young copywriter at McCann at the time whose creative work helped win the Sony business for the agency, created the introductory advertising for the Walkman with his campaign and tag line, "There's A Revolution In The Streets." It became one of the most successful launches of any new product in the past half-century.
A major component of the Walkman advertising campaign was personalization of the device. Prior to the Walkman, the common device for portable music was the portable radio, which could only offer listeners standard music broadcasts. Having the ability to customize a playlist was a new and exciting revolution in music technology. Potential buyers had the opportunity to choose their perfect match in terms of mobile listening technology. The ability to play your own music and listen privately was a huge selling point of the Walkman, especially amongst teens, who greatly contributed to its success. Despite "all this technological diversity, there must be one which is the perfect choice for you". This method of marketing to an extremely expansive user-base while maintaining the idea that the product was made for each individual "[got] the best of all possible worlds--mass marketing and personal differentiation". Sony accomplished the genius feat of mass individualized and targeted advertisement, enabling the Walkman to be recognized as an influential piece of technology.
Today, Walkman still maintains its role in popular sub culture, albeit a diminished one due to the large number of competitors in mobile audio devices today. Through Sony's effort to "[sustain] certain meanings and practices which have become emblematic of--which seem to stand for or to represent--a distinctive 'way of life': the culture of late-modern, post-industrial societies", the Walkman remains, largely due to effective advertisement, a symbol of the freedom and portability that Sony sought to convey among the younger demographic.
The metal-cased blue-and-silver Walkman TPS-L2, the world's first low-cost portable stereo, went on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979 and was sold for around ¥39,433.58 (or $150.00), or ¥57,109.02 (or $498.66) adjusted for inflation. In June 1980, it was introduced in the U.S. Also launched in the UK in 1980, it came with stereo playback and two mini headphone jacks, permitting two people to listen at the same time (though it came with only one pair of MDR-3L2 headphones). Where the Pressman had the recording button, the TPS-L2 had a "hotline" button which activated a small built-in microphone, partially overriding the sound from the cassette, and allowing one user to talk to the other over the music. Originally marketed as the "Soundabout" in the U.S., the "Stowaway" in the UK, and the "Freestyle" in Sweden, Sony soon had the new name "Walkman" embossed into the metal tape cover of the device. When the follow-up model, "Walkman II" came out, the "hotline" button was phased out though it was retained on the WM-R2, WM-3, WM-3EX and several models.
Amid fierce competition, primarily from Toshiba (the Walky), Aiwa (the CassetteBoy) and Panasonic (the MiJockey), by the late 1980s, In 1982 Sony introduced the Walkman DD Series, the first model of this series was the WM-DD. It was available in two colors, silver and red. Sony upped the ante once again by creating the playback-only WM-DD9, launched in 1989 during the 10th anniversary of the Walkman (five years after the WM-D6C) and became the holy grail for a niche group of cassette Walkman collectors. It is the only auto-reverse Walkman in history to use a two-motor, quartz-locked, disc drive system similar to high-end home cassette decks (like the Nakamichi Dragon) to ensure accurate tape speed for both sides (unlike the Dragon, only one motor operates at a time depending on the side of the tape being played).
Power consumption was low, requiring only either one AA battery or one gumstick-type rechargeable, with optional AC adaptor input. It is also equipped with an amorphous tape head capable of reproducing 20-20,000 Hz response, a gold-plated headphone jack, and a 2-millimetre-thick aluminum body. Sony made this model with only sound quality in mind at an affordable price, therefore it contains no gimmick features such as in-line remote control, music search, or LCD readout. Its only features are Dolby B/C noise reduction, EX DBB bass boost, tape and two auto reverse modes.
By the late 1990s, the cassette-based Walkman was generally passed over in favor of the emerging digital technologies of CD, DAT and MiniDisc. After 2000, cassette-based Walkman products (and their clones) were approaching technological obsolescence as the cassette format was gradually phased out. Sony still continues to make cassette-based Walkman devices in China for the US and other overseas markets; however, they were discontinued in Japan only on October 23, 2010.
Every five years since the Walkman personal stereo was born in 1979 until 1999, Sony would celebrate by coming out with an anniversary cassette model on July 1. Each anniversary model carries a different theme while retaining some characteristics of previous anniversary models: WM-701S (user friendliness theme with remote control and slim sterling silver-plated body: 1989), WM-EX1HG (efficiency theme with long battery life and pop-up eject: 1994), WM-WE01 (wireless theme with cordless remote control and cordless earphones: 1999). 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. 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.
Until early 2009, in spite of the decline of the cassette, logically operated deluxe models (WM-GX788 etc.) had been available in a very few countries, especially in South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. These models supported a so-called gumstick-type rechargeable battery, offered relatively better sound quality than cheaper models did, and had an automatic tape position selector and auto-reverse function. As of spring 2009, all tape models except the WM-EX651 were discontinued in South Korea. In Japan, only a few cheap models (WM-GX202 etc.) remained. In October 2010, however, those 'few' models finally went out of production. Many people no longer use cassette tapes for music listening and, in a few countries, cassette tapes are only used for language learning, which is now significantly declining thanks to podcasts from BBC or CNN or trends of (foreign-language learning) publishers which adopt MP3 file services or attached CDs rather than attaching tapes to their publications.
In October 2010, it was reported that manufacturing of the cassette-based Walkman would cease in Japan, but that Sony would continue production of the device in China to accommodate users abroad, including in the United States, Europe, and some Asian countries. Once the final units are sold, they will not be available from the manufacturer. With the increase popularity of the MP3 players, it was the CD (compact disc) player that originally caused the decline of the Walkman.
The highest quality Sony Walkmans were the Walkman Professionals - the WM-DC2 and the WM-DC6. In contrast to other models, the DC 6 was capable of recording. The latter was introduced in 1982 as the TC/WM-D6 and then upgraded as the TC/WM-D6C, which added Dolby C noise reduction on September 1, 1984, it was comparable in audio quality to high-fidelity professional audio equipment. Many magazines began to compare it with non-portable cassette decks. The Walkman Professional WM-DC6 had bright LED recording level meters and manual control of recording levels which were unique features not found in other portable units. It was equipped with a Direct Drive quartz-lock capstan servo and amorphous head. Powered by a 6V adapter or 4 AA batteries (compared with 2 for most Walkman models), it was widely used by journalists and developed a following among hi-fi enthusiasts. Even more unusual for a consumer-electronics product, it remained in production until 2002 essentially unchanged, with only one internal improvement, a reworked circuit board that used SMD components. One of Henry Rollins' early spoken word CDs was recorded with a Walkman Pro.
The WM-DC2, a smaller, playback-only Walkman Professional, sharing most of the features of the larger WM-DC6 such as audio quality, the Direct Drive quartz-lock capstan servo, amorphous head, Dolby B & C noise reduction, and Metal, CrO2, and Normal (i.e., ferric oxide), tape handling, but excluding the recording facility and level meters, was introduced in 1984. It was powered by either 2 AA batteries or a 6V adapter. A line-out socket for connecting to an external amplifier was also incorporated. The brushed black and matte black aluminium-cased player was supplied with a pair of headphones and a black leather carrying case/belt pouch. Tested by What Hi-Fi in 1988, the WM-DC2 retailed in the UK for £150.00 (US $270.00).
The first CD based Walkman, the D-50 (D-5 in some markets), was initially launched in 1984. It was officially called the Discman, and this name has since been used informally to refer to such players. In recent years, Sony has dropped the Discman name and markets all its personal stereos under the Walkman brand.
Later Discman models featured ESP (Electronic Skip Protection), which pre-read the music from the CD into on-board memory and formed a type of buffer to prevent the CD skipping when the player was moved. The technology was since renamed 'G-Protection' and features a larger memory area, providing additional protection against skipping.
For years, the Discman and MD Walkman were successes in the marketplace. However, newer technologies, such as flash memory and hard drive-based digital audio players have caused the CD- and MD-based Walkman to lose popularity.
The Sony GV-8 Video Walkman was introduced in 1989. It played Video 8 format tape cassettes, showing them on a 3-inch (76 mm) diagonal color screen. The GV-8 included a TV receiver for VHF and UHF channels. It measured 127 mm × 203 mm × 64 mm (5 in × 8 in × in) and weighed 1.1 kg (2.5 lb). The rechargeable battery lasted from 45 minutes to one hour depending on usage.
Initially the MiniDisc was comparable to a miniaturized CD, capable of storing up to 74 minutes of near CD-quality audio on a disc roughly two-thirds the size of a CD. Today MiniDiscs can hold data files as well as music, with the ability to record and reproduce audio in CD-quality (without ATRAC lossy compression).
MiniDiscs come in a plastic caddy protecting the disc's surface from dust and scratches. MiniDisc Walkmans are able to play and record MiniDiscs from digital and analogue sources, such as live audio from their microphone inputs. The first unit on the market, the MZ-1 was relatively large and unpocketable, but following model, MZ-R2, and subsequent MD Walkmans are quite compact, with today's MiniDisc Walkmans not much larger than the discs themselves.
Gradual improvements were made to MiniDisc Walkmans through the years. The addition of MDLP (MiniDisc LongPlay) codec allowed up to 4 times the amount of music to be stored on one MiniDisc, at the sacrifice of some sound quality. NetMD followed. In 2004, Hi-MD was introduced, enabling computer files as well as CD-quality audio to be recorded on the discs for the first time. By 2005, Sony had relaxed the restrictions in its SonicStage software to allow unrestricted digital transfers to and from Hi-MD and the computer.
Initially the Network Walkman was a series of digital music players that used flash memory to hold their data. The players used Sony's proprietary ATRAC format, and were available in a number of capacities, up to 1 GB. The first of these Walkmans was the NW-MS7 which had a removable 64 MB MagicGate Memorystick. At the time of its release (1999) it then boasted NW-MS70D as the smallest MP3 player on the market. After the runaway success of Apple's hard-drive-based iPod, Sony lost much of the portable digital audio market to the iPod and similar devices from other companies. Their main downfall would be Sony's stubborn resistance to supporting the ubiquitous MP3 codec in their early players and many users found it frustrating to convert their MP3 music collection to ATRAC3 for use on the Network Walkman, while Apple's iPod supported MP3 out of the box and came with the iTunes software.
Some hardware changes include the exclusion of stick remote control and the usage of new connector for charging, accessories and data transferring. Starting with the NW-S series, Walkmans feature Sony's new proprietary port called WM-PORT which is a USB 2.0 compliant 22-pin connector. Another notable hardware change is a color screen which can display album art. These models also use new power management features which give the device a three-hour battery life after only three minutes of charging.
NW-A series models still use the previous connector and can still use the stick remote control.
Some early releases in this category were players using flash memory as storage media. Sony called them Portable IC Audio Player. These release include the Walkman Core (NW-E50X and NW-E60X series), the Walkman Circ (NW-E10X series), and the Walkman Bean (NW-E20X and NW-E30X series). All of these lines have Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens. They do not use WM-PORT and support MP3, WMA and ATRAC format only.
In January 2013, Sony announced the launch of the first waterproof line of Walkman that resists depths of up to 2 meters.
The Walkman Core is a digital audio player available in capacities of 1 GB and 512 MB. Features include a 3-Line electroluminescence display, battery rated to hold a 50-hour playback life, the ability to play MP3/ATRAC3/ATRAC3plus audio formats. Sony also claims that the battery can charge at a rate of one hour per minute of charging. The NW-E507 Model also has an FM radio built into the player. The player works with Sony's SonicStage music transfer program.
Walkman Video MP3 Player combined the music playback capability of current Walkman MP3 Player line with video. Sony decided to choose Memory Stick Video format (which is actually the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format) as standard for Walkman MP3 Video Player.
To further extend MP3 support, Sony moved to phase out the ATRAC format. In late August 2007, Sony released an email to customers of its Online Music Store (Connect) stating that Sony would shut down the service and begin to phase out the ATRAC codec on any future version of the Walkman portable device. The email stated that Sony would adopt a Windows Media format; this plan was to be completed by March 2008, affecting customers and their Walkmans in the North American and European regions. This transition away from the ATRAC codec was to allow the Walkman line to be adopted by more potential customers and their specific and unique preferences on online music services. The product affected with this transition is NW-A8XX Series, which was actually released twice, the version with ATRAC and the one without. Sony extended audio support to include MP3, WMA, L-PCM, AAC, in both its E and F series Walkman in 2012 and also added support for FLAC, HE-AAC in the F series Android Walkman.
After losing a large portion of the market to other companies, Sony's latest attempt to revive the Walkman brand involved a series of music-centered mobile phones marketed under the former Sony Ericsson brand.
Contrary to most Walkman lines, Sony Ericsson Walkman Phones did not support Sony's proprietary audio format, ATRAC (with all of its variants, except certain Japanese models supporting ATRAC). Walkman phones do support AAC as well as MP3.
The W800 and W550/W600 had numerous audio capabilities including playlists, audio equalization, support for the M4A audio file format, and the ability to operate only as a music player, with the telephony electronics switched off. It also included standard mobile phone features, such as a 2 megapixel autofocus camera. The W550/W600 had 256 MB of internal memory, while the W800 included a 512 MB Memory Stick.
The W810 was an EDGE-enabled Quad band telephone launched in response to demand for a black coloured Walkman Phone. Other than minor changes in the software and hardware, most of the features were similar to those of the W800.
Sony Ericsson also launched the W900 (considered the successor of S700) which in addition to the audio and camera capabilities of W800, also featured 3G video calling and streaming, better video recording (30 frames a second), a larger display, and 470 MB of internal memory which can be expanded up to 2 GB. Music could be imported from a variety of sources, either via the wireless service provider or from a personal computer.
Sony Ericsson president Miles Flint, claiming to have sold over three million Walkman phones, introduced their sixth Walkman branded phone, the W950, at the 3GSM Congress in 2006. The W950i was a slim device with 4 GB internal flash memory, including a touch screen for navigation through music genres, playlists, individual songs or music albums. It was also the first Symbian OS-based Walkman phone to be introduced.
In 2006, Sony Ericsson announced yet another Walkman phone, the W300. It was the first Walkman phone in the series in a "flip phone" form factor. The W300 was also the first Walkman Phone to support Memory Stick Micro and features a VGA camera. They also launched their 8th Walkman telephone, the W700, a stripped-down version of the W800 with a different case colour, that included a 256 MB Memory Stick. The other major change was the absence of auto-focus in the onboard camera.
In February 2007, the W880 was announced and released. It featured a design only 9.4 mm thick and a full metal face plate. Being one of the smallest phones on the market, it proved very popular.
In February 2008, the W890. Following the former model in the series the W880, the W890 had a lot more enhanced features. Its built-in camera was upgraded to 3.2 MP from 2 MP, and it had an FM radio. It featured 3.5G tech which increased the connection speed from 384 kbit/s in the W880 to 3.6 Mbit/s in this phone. Both the internal and external memory doubled. Its talk time increased from 6.5 hr to 9.5 hr and the music play time reached 20 hrs.
In 2011 Sony Ericsson released their last Walkman branded phone, the Sony Ericsson Live with Walkman. Since Sony acquired Ericsson's 50% stake forming Sony Mobile Communications in 2012, the company has incorporated a dedicated Walkman application within their smartphones starting with the Xperia S. This app includes a wide range of features including ClearAudio+, Virtual Surround sound, visualisations, and supports a range of different audio formats.
In March 2015, Sony retired the Walkman brand for Android, renaming their embedded app "Music".