RIP Sony Walkman- Goodbye old friend

Posted on November 6, 2010


There have been more than a few articles out this week about the death of the Sony Walkman (although there still will be some niche manufacturing of the product in China).

What this writer liked about this article was the capture of the feeling one had for Sony product back then (and may still have today). it was a magical name, like Fisher, McIntosh, Altec Lansing, Western Electric or Moog.

I have spent years in electronics goods (yeah he remembers LG as Lucky Goldstar, I was buying from them- what a company!). I recorded back in the day of Studer A-800 multitrack machines and watched all the analog conversions to digital, etc. The one thing that stayed was the Sony Walkman- I am sorry to see it go, but then again- in technology, what really lasts? the reality is that one breakthrough product leads to the next and the walkman was just a stepping stone to the iPod.

But man, I do miss the outdoor Walkman with the Megabass (yeah, I had one- it was red, I still have it- and the Doors never sounded so good).

What the Walkman did was change music from a social context to an individual experience. Yes, you still had headphones you could plug in at home, but on the road, that was totally unique. Watching the world go by with your own personal soundtrack. That is what made the Walkman so cool. Well, its goodbye to an old friend for now, but I will bet that some form will always be around. Although my stereo is still a Canary audio analogue tubed bad boy with a 7lb glass turntable and a CD player that uses a tubed preamp. Yeah, the vinyl still sounds better than the digital, but hey the new generation is catching on to that and I am sure that group will use the learnings of the past to create something even better for the future. I, for one, can’t wait.

(SAM GROBART NYT) When I was a kid (around 25 years ago), Christmas was a time of family, food and the searing-hot hope that I would be in possession of some new gadget come the morning of Dec. 25. And no matter what that gadget was, it was likely to have one common feature: The name “Sony” printed somewhere on it.

There was an almost-endless supply of products that I would have been entranced by from the Japanese electronics company. Anything else was off-brand, not worthy of consideration. Panasonic? Even they were second-rate at the time. LG? Those guys were called Lucky-Goldstar back then, which sounded less like like the name of a electronics company and more like the name of a “dancer” at a “gentlemen’s cabaret.” But Sony? Oh Sony… they could do no wrong. To list just a few Sony products I used to pine for:

* Any Walkman – particularly the Sport, the Outback (with the vaunted Megabass feature) and, oh man, the dual-cassette Walkman.
* A Discman
* A Watchman
* A portable cassette/radio (again, Sports version being preferable)

Those are the obvious choices, but there were so many other things Akio Morita was cooking up for me back then, including (but not limited to):

* Bookshelf stereo systems
* Dream Machine alarm clocks
* Cordless and corded phones
* Handycam camcorders
* And, of course, a gift that I never really expected to get, but still, I could wish — a Trinitron TV

Contrast that with today. I can’t honestly think of something I would want this holiday season that comes from Sony. TVs? Sony’s still in the game, but they used to own that market. Now they have to slug it out with Samsung, LG, Vizio, Panasonic… the list goes on.

Sony still makes a good still camera or two, but that too is a market with plenty of competition (Canon, Nikon, Casio, Panasonic, et al).

Cellphones? Lots of news from Apple, Microsoft, Google, even R.I.M. But SonyEricsson? Crickets.

E-book readers? It makes those — it made the first ones — but you hear more about Amazon’s Kindle or even Barnes & Noble’s Nook.

Portable audio? Well, let’s not get into that, now, because that’s just mean.

Nowadays, the holiday season’s more a time when Sony announces not so much a new product, but some new restructuring plan that will finally — finally! — restore the company to its lofty heights.

I mean, I get it. Things change. People move on. I certainly did. Nowadays, my holiday shopping takes me to the shiny white cubes of Apple stores, or the Web sites of Samsung, Panasonic or others. Will my heart ever quicken at another product from Sony? It could, but that’s really up to them.