October 25, 2010

Sony Retiring Walkman Cassette Player In Japan

After more than three decades, Tokyo-based electronics giant Sony has announced that they have ceased production of their Walkman personal audio cassette player in Japan, and that the device will no longer be sold once units currently available in stores sell out.

The device debuted in July 1979 and has sold more than 220 million units worldwide, but production of the cassette tape player was halted in April, company spokeswoman Hiroko Nakamura told the Associated Press (AP) on Monday. However, she added that limited production of the Walkman will continue in China in order to meet international demand.

The Walkman name is still currently used to promote Sony's line of portable audio and media players, as well as a line of mobile phones. However, the original audio cassette player's popularity peaked long ago, as the media that it operated using was eventually made redundant thanks first to the CDs and mini-discs and later by MP3s and other downloadable content. Still, news of its demise has been met with fond remembrances across the World Wide Web.

"Those of us who grew up in the Reagan Decade know: By six years after its 1979 debut, the Walkman had become the iPod of its day," Rob Pegoraro of The Washington Post wrote in a Monday blog entry. "Much like Apple's music player, Sony's gadget was near-ubiquitous, got a little smaller over subsequent revisions, and had cheaper competitors that Weren't Quite The Same Thing."

"Am I alone in feeling a small degree of sadness after hearing that Sony is retiring the Walkman?" Rosie Swash of The Guardian pondered in a blog entry. "Like vinyl-lovers who mourned the arrival of cassettes, I finally understand what it's like to watch a piece of music technology, once regarded as the pinnacle of cool (no, really), fall from grace and, in the Walkman's case, suffer a quiet death."

Josh Marshall of the website Talking Points Memo compared the news to "hearing someone died but you'd already figured they'd been dead for a while."

"For those of you who weren't around or weren't old enough in 1979, it must be difficult to imagine what an amazing product this was since--let's be honest--today it looks like kind of a joke," he added. "It wasn't just that the device was small"¦ It was that the headphones were so small and managed to provide--right up against your ear--a surprising degree of audio fidelity"¦ It was the only real way to listen to music on the go."


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