Walkman: Stop, rewind

Walkman: Stop, rewind

Almost precisely on the ninth birthday of the iPod, Sony Corp. has announced that it will cease production of the Walkman, the iconic portable cassette player once seen clipped onto belts or waistbands of joggers around the world. The timing may be sheer coincidence, but its significance is unmistakable. The iPod may not have laughtered the Walkman on its own, but just as the Walkman did in a previous era, the iPod has become almost a generic term to refer to the portable music players of its time.

Also See Walkman: Stop, Rewind (PDF)

On the surface, the demise of the Walkman seems really to be about the demise of its medium of music delivery: the cassette. In 2009, only 9% of all the music sold was carried on cassettes, and most major companies have stopped producing pre-recorded tapes. But the Walkman was about more than just the cassette; we don’t remember, for instance, the brand of an LP player the way we do the Walkman.

Perhaps it was because the Walkman pulled off the ultimate human dream for music: to free it from the constraints of space and time, to be accessed wherever and whenever the urge strikes. That is singularly the Walkman’s legacy; the iPod, for all its innovation, has merely carried that legacy forward.

Graphic by Uttam Sharma/Mint