Walkman in the Park
July 8, 2019 10:48 PM   Subscribe

Sony celebrates 40 years of Walkmans with Walkman in the Park, a temporary exhibit at Ginza Sony Park.
posted by adept256 (21 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think my model from the early 90s was designed to break apart. If you dropped it it would split into three pieces, the plastic clam shells and it's electronic guts. It was held together with plastic clips, no screws, so you would just snap the parts into place and it was good as new. I often think of that walkman every time I hear about iphones being destroyed by short falls and soft breezes.
posted by adept256 at 11:02 PM on July 8, 2019 [2 favorites]


I still have my WM-2 bought in 1981. Still works, sounds good.
posted by Zedcaster at 11:04 PM on July 8, 2019


I miss my discmans! Even if they're not nearly as convenient for fitting into my pocket as my old tiny ipods or my current phone. I used to carry my discman around school in the kangaroo pocket of my oversized hoodies.

Last year, out of curiosity, I got a more recent digital touchscreen Walkman audio player (smaller than the device pictured at the end of the anniversary video, but mostly similar). While it's a fun pocket-sized novelty, it just can't beat the convenience of Spotify on my phone and not having to carry around a separate device or proprietary charging cable (seriously, Sony?), so I haven't really used it much. Might give it another shot!
posted by rather be jorting at 11:30 PM on July 8, 2019


This is pretty nostalgic. I think I've used one or two of those models in the example image for the Walkman Wall.

I kept the discman for the occasions I wanted to listen to my meagre collection of classical music CDs. (When I can find the CDs, anyway.)
posted by redrawturtle at 12:09 AM on July 9, 2019


Have had a few of these and still have a discman and pristine Walkman pro somewhere in a box. However, for general build quality and sound quality, Aiwa made the best portable cassette players.

The walkman was iconic because it was such an innovation but (walkman pro aside) they weren't all that good. Walkman headphones were laughable. Minidisc could have been great but was fatally compromised by not offering a digital output.
posted by epo at 12:27 AM on July 9, 2019


Sonies Walkman, surely.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:40 AM on July 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I had an original Walkman, but I definitely had a Walkman II. In either case, I cannot describe the world-changing effect going outside for a walk on the street, slipping the headphones on, and clicking play was. Suddenly, you had your own personal soundtrack to the live moment. You were somewhere else. With Fear of Music as your soundtrack.

I know that sounds silly today, where it's unusual to see someone without a device stuck in their ear, but that was a huge moment for me. In retrospect, of course, what it ended up being was the first step in the steady march toward cutting ourselves off from each other unless we use a device as an intermediary. But, for that one perfect moment...
posted by Thorzdad at 3:45 AM on July 9, 2019 [5 favorites]


Thanks to a cool uncle, I inherited one of these models when I was a young teen. The cassette player eventually gave out, but I replaced it with an early Discman. Apart from that early model's lack of "skip protection," music sounded incredible thanks to those headphones.

Now that my ears are tuned a little differently, I'd be interested to hear how that setup would sound now.
posted by emelenjr at 5:26 AM on July 9, 2019


I'm still pissed that someone stole mine from my locker senior year.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:21 AM on July 9, 2019


I cannot describe the world-changing effect going outside for a walk on the street, slipping the headphones on, and clicking play was. Suddenly, you had your own personal soundtrack to the live moment. You were somewhere else. With Fear of Music as your soundtrack.

absolutely. It revolutionized everyday life. Profoundly. And unlike many a "killer app" that's come our way since, it felt inevitable. In fact, I can remember discussing with friends the need for such technology -- the ability to take our own personal soundtracks into the world. As it was, we'd do stuff like wander off into the woods with ghetto blasters cranked, frightening the birds and the normals, trying not to get arrested.

I know that sounds silly today, where it's unusual to see someone without a device stuck in their ear, but that was a huge moment for me. In retrospect, of course, what it ended up being was the first step in the steady march toward cutting ourselves off from each other unless we use a device as an intermediary. But, for that one perfect moment...

Technology as always being at least a two-headed beast. If something's new and catching on and I find myself either completely FOR or AGAINST, I conclude I'm probably doing it wrong.
posted by philip-random at 8:58 AM on July 9, 2019


I bought RATM - Evil Empire on tape on a date with my girlfriend and her little sister. We were taking her to see The Baby Sitter's Club The Movie at the cinema. So we watched this awful tween movie, while listening to Rage and making out, sharing the headphones. I know in my bones that without the walkman, I would have walked out on that movie and left them there. And missed out on the other thing that happened that night, so , um, thanks Sony.
posted by adept256 at 10:01 AM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]


Do any of the linked resources mention that the Walkman was first marketed in the USA as the SoundAbout? My first recollection of them was a 1979 Rolling Stone nugget featuring Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick remarking how loud they were.
posted by hwestiii at 10:55 AM on July 9, 2019


Yellow waterproof Walkman with black rubber buttons= Emblazoned in my mind forever!!!! Just looking at it makes me feel like I'm bathing in the mid 1980s... most likely listening to The Wall on a dubbed 90 minute Maxell tape.
posted by Liquidwolf at 11:54 AM on July 9, 2019 [3 favorites]


Rewatching the video, around :48 are some really interesting post-discman hardware designs where the digital-file-only Walkmans are in all sorts of interesting experimental shapes. I wish those were still around, too - they look so much cuter and futuristic than the actual latest Walkmans. (I'm so tempted to write "Walkmen.")
posted by rather be jorting at 1:50 PM on July 9, 2019


In retrospect, of course, what it ended up being was the first step in the steady march toward cutting ourselves off from each other

Arthur Asa Berger compares the ghetto blaster to the Walkman in Reading Matter - Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Material Culture (1992):

“The sphere of the ghetto blaster is public; the psychological imperatives at work are sociability (the kindest reading) and a desire to dominate and make oneself heard or one’s presence known (the least kind reading).

The Walkman type of stereo radio is the polar opposite of the ghetto
blaster. People who use these stereos essentially seal themselves off
from the world and attempt to attain a state of pure acoustic
sensation…. If ghetto blaster users are anomic, and disregard the rules
of conduct and codes of civility relating to being quiet in public
places, Walkman users are alienated and antisocial.

Walkmen [and, now, smartphone] users do not bother people the way ghetto blaster users do, but they do something even worse—they reject them.
posted by tenderly at 2:47 PM on July 9, 2019


1992 scholarship is before my time, but "ghetto blaster" reads to me as a very loaded term for what could otherwise have just been described as a "boombox." As Berger attempts to draw a somewhat rigid distinction between the format of the boombox and the Walkman, he's also emphasizing quite a few generalizations about each format's respective users & their engagement with society through public-facing music vs private-facing music. It's unnecessary to include the additional implication-baggage of "ghetto blaster" into the mix.

Anyway, I disagree with the notion that temporarily intentionally cutting oneself off from interacting with society through the use of playing personal music through headphones is worse than being rude with a boombox. Considering, for example, how easily women get harassed if they don't have noticeable earbuds or headphones on in public, (and also how women get harassed anyway regardless of what they're wearing), is it really so bad to reject unsolicited public interaction? And should there be other people disrupting the conduct of conduct regarding quiet in a public space (not even with a boombox or overly loud headphones, sometimes people are inherently inconsiderate of others regardless of any technology to amplify their rudeness), using a Walkman or other portable personal music-playing device to cut oneself off from having to listen to such disruptions seems like a win-win: a simple remedy that doesn't involve bothering others, how lovely.

(I'm all for shaming rude people who don't bother removing their earbuds/Airpods/headphones / taking their eyes off their phones when interacting with others, though.)
posted by rather be jorting at 5:29 PM on July 9, 2019 [2 favorites]


I'm still in the middle of my Weird Al nostalgia bender and thus now thinking about the relative rudeness of blasting "White and Nerdy" on a boombox, prominently letting all and sundry know that while I am not white, I am indeed very nerdy, vs just listening to it on my phone while walking from Point A to Point B on my way to work, blissfully avoiding any interaction with anyone on my walk to the office, my non-white nerdiness unbeknownst to any passersby.
posted by rather be jorting at 5:39 PM on July 9, 2019 [1 favorite]



1992 scholarship is before my time, but "ghetto blaster" reads to me as a very loaded term for what could otherwise have just been described as a "boombox."


It was referred to as both of those things, by everyone. Boombox was the more official name, Ghetto Blaster was the slang. No need to overthink it.
posted by Liquidwolf at 7:57 AM on July 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


But isn't academia the official venue for overthinking? Professional beanplating, if you will...

Anyway, the BBC overthought it for me - I thought this was an interesting read in differing perspectives on how "ghetto" can be seen as both insulting and not. This NYT Crossword note from Will Shortz explains some initial doubts in including "ghetto blaster" as an official crossword answer, and his team's reasoning was that it's ultimately a lively answer but one that understandably did give them some pause to consider.

In the context of the upthread excerpt from Berger, however, he's mainly emphasizing the ghetto blaster as a negative to society, something that permits the user to intrude upon an expectation of quiet in a public space. As part of that context, "ghetto blaster" read as a broader condemnation not just of that particular use, but of the users themselves as people, for being socially misguided (anomic). It read to me as a patronizing take from someone nevertheless tuned in enough to the times to use contemporary slang, and as with any Metafilter comment, it intrigued enough pathways in my brain to prompt me to respond.

I'm not planning on dying on any ghetto blaster hills (what an image that'd be), though, and freely note that this and my previous comment was boomboxplating.
posted by rather be jorting at 9:23 AM on July 10, 2019


the word was definitely ghetto blaster. I remember being schooled on this by a twelve year old in around 1981. In time, we just came to call them blasters.

“The sphere of the ghetto blaster is public; the psychological imperatives at work are sociability (the kindest reading) and a desire to dominate and make oneself heard or one’s presence known (the least kind reading).

which gets to the point I was trying to make above. I didn't feel a need to impose my noise on everybody else, but I did very much want to hear that noise in places other than the confines of home etc -- wherever a stereo system could be installed, so this included a car, but not everybody can afford a car, and anyway, there are places that cars can't go.

So yeah, the Walkman was one of those technologies that was easy to embrace more or less immediately. Suddenly, one's soundtrack could go everywhere. And maybe for some, this was a kind of imposed alienation, but from my end, it was a passionate love of music and a desire to expand the boundaries of where and when that passion could be indulged. In fact, I'll take that ...

Walkman users are alienated and antisocial.

... and throw it right back at Asa Berger. Because the Walkman's expanded audio freedom often got me to social places that I never would have gone otherwise, because I could take my brand new OMD album for a walk as opposed to cocooning with it in my room. And who knows where that walk might take me, and who I might encounter? It's not as if I couldn't push pause at some point, remove the headphones and engage.

I do get that for some (perhaps many) it was/is a technology that aids and abets certain levels of alienation. But the flip of this is that we live in an increasingly crowded planet, find ourselves getting shoehorned into increasingly dense social circumstances. Who's to say that the ability to slip on the earbuds and get sonically lost in Slayer or perhaps Beethoven or some tripped out Trance, or maybe a podcast on the merits of eating a good breakfast isn't a net-plus for overall levels of sanity in the culture?
posted by philip-random at 9:26 AM on July 10, 2019 [1 favorite]


Walkman users are alienated and antisocial.

Since I went to a boarding school I only got to see my girlfriend on the weekend. The rest of the time we talked on the phone and sent letters. This was back when you had to draw the eggplant by hand. She would send me mixtapes and tell jokes in between the tracks. That's one way for walkman users to be social. I don't think people do that anymore.
posted by adept256 at 6:49 PM on July 11, 2019 [1 favorite]


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