Another one bits the dust: Goodbye Walkman

By Grant Jacobs 25/10/2010 15

As you get older iconic brands of your youth die.

In the way that an older generation must lament the loss of the steam locomotives and Studebakers, more recent times have seen farewell to Kodachrome and the floppy disk.

Sony Walkman

It’s the Walkman’s turn.

Like millions of other kids I had a Walkman. A Sony, the real thing -not a knock-off.

It was only a little bigger than the hearing aid I had as a kid. A little wider, a little longer, and about twice as thick.

The sounds came not the world around me, but music I could take with me anyplace.

A portable bubble of sound I could enclose myself in.

Until the batteries ran out.

They ate batteries like a kid snacking on chocolate bars. Well, not quite, but you know what I mean. Longer trips away demanded spare batteries in case you lost your lifeline to portable bliss. You rationed salvation for fear of silent apocalypse.

You could hear when the music slowed down as the batteries faded away, too. Hard rockers would distort into grotesque crooners.

I don’t feel regret hearing of the demise of the clunky tape boxes.

Likewise, perhaps oddly, perhaps understandably – for a computer geek, that is – I have no emotional attachment to the floppy disk.

But Paul Simon’s song plays in my internal Walkman when my mind thinks of Kodachrome.

Kodachrome ties to my youth more strongly, I guess. My Dad, a photographer, taking us kids on weeks-long trips in the caravan getting material for his landscape books. Long hot summers that went on seemingly forever. (Waiting for him to take photographs sometimes felt like forever, too.) Sleeping in the awning, swimming in the Clutha. There’s memories.

Adios Walkman. You’re not missed.

Other articles in Code for life:

A dot in space and chromosomes

Local documentaries: NZ bats, Dunedin stadium and 1080

Dictionaries, the OED, and what do you use?

What is your relationship with your research notebook?

I remember because my DNA was methylated

Backups, part I

15 Responses to “Another one bits the dust: Goodbye Walkman”

  • Ah, nostalgia… (the hissing of summer lawns, & all that stuff). I wanted a walkman & never got one :( I guess my current i-Pod ownership is evidence of overcompensation :)

  • Gimme, gimme.

    (I don’t have an iPod. I never win anything at the conferences, as you can tell… not that I can afford to attend many either!)

  • I always swore I didn’t need one, but honestly, it’s a great way to carry music with you. I find I use it a lot on long road trips – like Hawkes Bay last weekend – cos it sure beats having to pull over to change a CD!

    And having podcasts going at low volume is an excellent sleeping aid :) (I find NatRad has the same effect but at some point you find yourself waking up again to turn it off. Whereas the i-Pod turns itself off once the talk has finished… ) Yes, I do know that this is not the intent of those producing the podcasts!

  • Hahahaha. If you told some of the people who presented the podcasts that “your podcast put me off to sleep”, they’d be mortified!

    I’d love one. One day…

  • I know! The sad thing is, they are really good podcasts, that’s why I download them in the first place. But I simply can’t hear them right through at night. Must be something about the pace & timbre of the spoken word that puts the old brain into ‘idle’ & then into ‘sleep’ mode :)

    Daytime’s another matter, I can listen to them just fine then. Sometimes I find myself commenting/arguing, which must be an interesting look to people outside the car LOL

  • Must be something about the pace & timbre of the spoken word that puts the old brain into ‘idle’ & then into ’sleep’ mode

    Are you sure it’s not the memory of old lectures? 😉

    must be an interesting look to people outside the car

    No, no. You’re just a high-powered executive talking to the car phone or dictaphone 😉

    I know what you mean about ‘talking aloud’ arguments, though.

  • I kind of miss it too. The point about the walkman was it was iconic in a way the 3.5″ floppy never was. It was part of the culture of the 80s and early 90s. It made for the images of young women in California, skating while listening to the walkman- it invaded and occupied popular culture.

    For what it is worth, the walkman brand does live on in Sony’s range of MP3 players. I use one instead of an iPod. There’s some advantage to having a player that can play a range of music formats, rather than say, just Apple of MS restricted.

  • The point about the walkman was it was iconic in a way the 3.5″ floppy never was.

    That’s true but I also think they both stand as a token representing the passing of an era.

    For what it is worth, the walkman brand does live on

    Apparently there’s also some licensing deal with an Asia company on using Sony’s design. While I was writing this article, I realised that a lot of the ‘lost’ icons are preserved, they just shuffle off into niche markets. LPs for example. VW Beetles (the original design) were still made for years in Brazil after production ceased elsewhere. There’s not so many that have a clean cut-off when you start thinking about them!

    Of course, the topic & ‘facts’ were just an excuse to let me do a little free-form writing.

  • :) I’d thought about blogging on the subject too.

    What’s kind of intriguing is just how the pace of change in consumer electronics & technology markets has seemingly accelerated. The VCR is another technology that has been abandoned by many manufacturers. Yet that was our staple way of recording and viewing videos not so long ago. A few years back I read a UK article that said that burglars were leaving VCR machines behind in home robberies.

    I wish a few more companies would pick up those old films of course… sigh

  • Ah, the VCR. We had a stack of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ tapes that we made for the kids when they were little – all those wonderful models! That & some of the really old Disney cartoons – mostly musical ones – involving the earlier incarnations of the Mouse & his merry band. All great stuff & good to stick in the slot on a rainy afternoon when I wanted them out of my hair for a bit. (The kids, not the Mouse et al.)

    Cue comments on poor parenting skills in 3… 2… 1… LOL

  • It was the first practical truly portable device that allowed someone to choose what they wanted to hear wherever and whenever they liked. It had never happened before. Radio was someone elses choice. Records needed power and definitely NO sand!!! But something that would last a couple of hours while skating, headphones in place, meant that it was all for ME ME ME.

    The first hint that Gen Y was around he corner maybe???

  • Waiting for him to take photographs sometimes felt like forever, too.

    Far too late in the act I ought to elaborate on this, least anyone take it the wrong way.

    I was kid. Most of the time it was great hanging out waiting for the shot, I loved being outdoors seeing new corners of New Zealand, but kids get restless sometimes! Landscape photography isn’t always just a matter of setting up the tripod and rattling a few shots off. The light changes constantly, and for some shots you can wait hours (then work flat out while the light is right).

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