Reflections about thy walkman

I was amazed today when I clicked on CNN’s website and saw a blurb about Sony’s official statement today announcing the end of the cassette Walkman…huh?  I thought this thing died with the last official episode of Miami Vice.  “Wow” I thought to myself, “I can’t believe that they still make cassettes…let alone the actual cassette player”!

In some ways it’s a sad day since it does officially mark the end of an era (although I thought that this particular era died more than 2 decades ago); my first walkman was a made by Aiwa and I thought I was the shit when I got it.  If I recall correctly I think I had to raid my parents cassette collection which offered the likes of Styx, Boz Scaggs, Huey Lewis and The News, and Barbara Streisand, and my personal favorite was Steve Martin’s 1977’s  live album Let’s Get Small; at the age of 10 I had  no idea what his jokes meant but I listened to the tape over and over. 

I think the first cassette I owned was some obscure Roger Daltrey album called Under a Raging Moon (1985). My father had joined a Columbia Music Club thing and he would get sent an assortment of tapes he could either accept or decline; I think I opened the box one time and he got screwed having to commit to buying the tape for $10; he was pissed.  I think the Daltrey album was my official music when I was snowblowed my driveway, it was terrible but I thought it was the coolest music at the time.  It wasn’t until about 10th grade that I started to get into metal and had a collection of both actual albums and mix tapes (often created by pushing “record” on my “boom-box”).  Mix tapes were often a culmination of 70’s rock and 80’s pop (Rock Me Amadeus, Blinded Me With Science, and Rock and Roll Fantasy were often mingled together); terrible yes today, but  at the time it was (I thought) an awesome personal collection ready to be listened to at my whim.  My first real metal album was Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988) and I listened to that until it met the fate of falling out of pocket and shattering.

Everything revolved around my walkman in those days and I can’t even think about how many double A batteries I must have gone through; I recall the practice of having to wind my cassettes with a pencil if the tape inside got twisted, how the wimpy cassette cases cracked with the slightest breeze, and what thrill it was to shop at Record Town in the mall.

Then in the late 80’s I remember when Macy’s department store had an electronics department and “The Discman” entered the scene.  It was a bittersweet day I recall, the concept of music on a shiny disc was way cooler and the sound quality infinitely better in so many ways. However the dark side was the price tag for the first generation players, roughly around $600.  My father considered getting one, but settled for paying $800 for an actual CD player for his cabinet.  I think at the time there were only about 20 artists available in the format, and you could only get the discs at select audio retailers.  They sold for around $25 a piece, so really only a select few were getting them, my father was always the first in line for stuff like that.  It’s hard to believe that you can pick up a no-namer personal disc player at Wal-Mart today for $10, and now every DVD and computer plays them, incredible.

I knew at that time that the Walkman had met it’s match and it no longer was the king, except for the Sony Sports Walkman.  Now that was the big Kahuna! For years the thought of having a cassette player that you could possible  play under water sounded revolutionary; of course the concept was it could just get damp, it was marketed as if it was “swim ready”, and of course it wasn’t.  Then they eventually would release the Sports DiscMan and well, you know the rest.

I’m sure my mother has my old Aiwa (complete with the blue foamy ear things on the headset) up in the attic.  It was a neat time when it came  out and everyone had to have one, hard to believe  you would be lucky to sell one at a garage sale today for

It seems that today does mark the end of an era where my generation is officially out of touch with today’s.  Today’s seniors in high school have not even seen a cassette, or even a real “floppy” disc for a computer.  Time flies and I guess the death of the Walkman is simply another way of reminding of me about my age and eventual mortality. 

I don’t feel like I’m getting older, but clearly I am.

3 Responses to “Reflections about thy walkman”

  1. 1 ericstraus
    October 26, 2010 at 6:35 PM

    I loved my Walkman with all my heart and soul. My best memories of it are from when I went to Europe with my 9th grade Spanish class, and that Walkman kept me company on the long bus rides between Belgium and Germany, Italy and Switzerland, etc. You mentioned Miami Vice – that soundtrack got extensive play in my Walkman, along with Genesis’ Invisible Touch album, U2’s Joshua Tree and Pink Floyd’s Delicate Sound of Thunder double album. Good times.

  2. October 26, 2010 at 8:27 PM

    Reminded me of when Apple stopped making the Apple II. It seemed like it was way past when it should have stopped being made.

    • 3 jacobull
      October 26, 2010 at 8:35 PM

      Agreed. I could not believe that it was still around…at least it wasn’t being offered in the US, perhaps it was still big in third world countries where “CD technology” hasn’t been introduced, like tobacco and Europe in the 1300’s? It was all the rage with the natives here!

      I remember when Jeff went to Indonesia and discovered that many of the 80’s metal hair bands that were no longer popular in the US were rockin’ in Southeast Asia alive and well; crazy!

      I wonder if CNN will report the death of the Atari 2600 next?

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