Sony is a manufacturer of portable media players. The original Sony Walkman was released in 1979, and 20 years after the introduction of the first model, Sony sold 186 million cassette Walkman’s.
We take portable music for granted these days. Any commuter in any big city in the world is more likely than not to have a pair of earbuds or headphones on as they walk, bike, or ride to their destination. The thing is, personal portable music did not exist for most of human history, at least not in any mainstream fashion. Not until the Sony Walkman came along.
However, the first cassette tape recorders could not match the sound quality of reel-to-reel recorders and were mainly used as study aids and for general-purpose recording. However, technology was soon developed that allowed high quality recording and playback of music. Radio cassette tape recorders and other such products were launched, and the compact cassette tape became a widely used medium for the listening of music.
At the end of the 1970’s a new development emerged that was to further boost the success of the audio cassette.
The Honorary Chairman of Sony was a regular user of the TC-D5 recorder/player, and he would take one with a set of headphones on overseas trips, so that he could listen to music in stereo on the plane. However, he found it too heavy. One day, before going on a trip to the United States, he asked the then Executive Deputy President of Sony for a simple, playback-only stereo version of the “Pressman,” the small, mono tape recorder that Sony had launched in 1978.
They altered a Pressman recorder, removing the record function and converting the machine to produce stereo sound. They then attached headphones and tried this creation. The resulting sound was quite good.
The heyday of the Walkman may be over, with kids today baffled and disgusted by the relative clumsiness of cassettes. But the habit it spawned — listening to music wherever and whenever you want — is bigger than ever.