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Walkman turns 40

July 2, 2019.

Sony Walkman.

Walkman. © Sony.

Sony is celebrating the 40th birthday of one of its most iconic products, the Walkman: the first portable music player ever. Released on July 1st, 1979, it revolutionized the way we listen to music, even though we don’t use cassettes or CDs anymore. Nearly every mobile device we carry now can play music, storing thousands of songs and streaming tens of thousands more from the internet anywhere in the world. But the whole idea of taking music with you — that you could listen to your favorite songs on the go, without subjecting everyone nearby to your music — started with the Walkman. The device was an instant hit. Sony thought it would sell 5,000 units per month, but in fact it shipped 50,000 units in the first two months at a time when USD150 was good coin (USD500 in today’s dollars). Over 400 million Walkman portable music players have been sold, 200 million of them cassette players. Sony retired the classic cassette tape line in 2010. The Walkman is one of those iconic 80s objects, right up there with the Rubik’s Cube, Air Jordan sneakers, the Atari 2600 console, Swatch watches, the first Macintoshes, etc. So much so that it must be featured in any period piece worth its salt, like the Stranger Things television series.

Circuit Breaker, “40 years ago, the Sony Walkman changed how we listen to music.”