Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Sony Walkman personal stereo was a transistorized miniature portable cassette tape player invented by Akio Morita, Masaru Ibuka and Kozo Ohsone , and manufactured by Sony Corporation. The first Sony Walkman was sold 1979. A German inventor, Andreas Pavel , claims he came up with the walkman, or, like he called it, the stereobelt, back in 1977. After court battles it came to an out of court settlement in 1999.
The original blue-and-silver Walkman model TPS-L2 went on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979. In the UK, it was launched at the London rooftop nightclub Regines as the Sony Stowaway - a name withdrawn within three months of its first public appearance outside Japan in May 1980. In the United States, it was originally called the Sony Soundabout, but this too was eventually replaced by Walkman. In sweden the name Freestyle was used. The name Walkman was invented by Akio Morita when he walked on Manhattan.
Offering the ability for people to carry their own choice of music with them, the Walkman stereo was one of the most successful new consumer product introductions of the 1980s. Hit pop songs were written about it ("Wired for Sound" by Cliff Richard), hundreds of clones flooded the marketplace, and they quickly became ubiquitous amongst urban pedestrians and commuters. It was often linked to the jogging fad while Sony marketing also underlined its suitability for roller-skating.
Sony has sold more than 330 Million Walkmans worldwide including approximately 150 Million in the US.
The original Walkman was based on the Pressman, a business-oriented portable cassette recorder. While retaining the general form, the recording capability was replaced with stereo playback and two mini headphone jacks so two people could listen at the same time (though it came with only one pair of headphones). Where the Pressman had the recording button, the Walkman had a "hotline" button which activated a small built-in microphone (retained from the Pressman), partially overriding the sound from the cassette, and allowing one user to talk to the other over the music. The dual jacks and "hotline" button were phased out in the follow-up Walkman II model, which was more purpose-designed.
Some devices were also capable of recording. The best quality Sony Walkman cassette deck was the Walkman Professional WM-D6C, which was comparable in audio quality with the best non-portable cassette decks. Unusually for a portable device, it had recording level meters and manual control of the left and right recording levels. Powered by the mains or by 4 AA batteries (compared with 2 for most Walkman models), it was widely used by journalists, and developed a following among hi-fi enthusiasts. By the late 1990s the machine was generally passed over in favor of the digital technologies of CD, DAT and MiniDisc.
The cassette-based Walkman products are now approaching technological obsolesence as the format fades, even on the consumer market gradually being replaced by CD, MiniDisc and solid-state or hard disk MP3 players as their cost comes down. Sony continues to use the "Walkman" brand name for all of these kinds of portable audio devices as well, after the "Discman" name for CD players was dropped in the late '90s.
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