Ode to the Walkman

By now most people will be aware of the impending doom facing Sony’s original, and longest serving portable music player. Yes, it’s true, the last of the devices that defined a generation or so are being sold in shops as we speak.

In 1979 the Walkman arrived and was derided as a fad. It’s not the first time trend setters and spotters have been woefully bad at predicting the future, just as it won’t be the last. Now here we are, about to press stop on an old friend that has seen out three decades, starting and finishing another two.

Obviously, it was pretty big news when it happened, made all the more timely by the iPod’s 9th Birthday- arguably the only competitor in terms of must have equipment of this kind. After all, portable CD players might be useful, but it’s a fool who believes anti-shock works properly, and fitting one into the baggiest of trouser pockets is near enough impossible.

To an extent though, that’s where comparisons between the sleek, white, gazzillion track box, and the chunky, usually black tape player end. In many ways, much to the detriment of the former. Confused? Then let this question go some way to shedding a little light on the point at hand. If people put as much effort into collecting, compiling and recording music on a playlist, as they did to maintain a catalogue of ‘borrowed’ music on tape- whether in the form of a stop-start radio mix or a compilation taken from vinyl or CD- then would we have the same throwaway attitude towards tunes?

The answer, of course, is no. Or at least probably no. A good friend recently quizzed; “if people went into an art gallery, and found images on a screen of the artwork, rather than the actual art, they’d be pretty pissed off. Why is it not the same with music anymore?” It’s a point well made- the material value of audio productions has plummeted. Favourites last about a week, and many people have more tracks on their hard drive than is possible to listen to, non-stop, for weeks. Both tapes and MP3 players breed illegal music sharing, though it can be argued with relative ease that one showed much more of a desire to promote artists, share ideas and tastes. It’s a little food for thought as we say goodbye to the first real age of personalised music collections, where a compilation took all 90 minutes to make, and continue on our relentless faster, more, now binge.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Plain & Simple, Plain & Simple. Plain & Simple said: Morning tweeps, good weekend? First up this week- We pay hommage to the walkman..http://www.plainandsimple.tv/2010/11/07/ode-to-the-walkman/ […]