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How the Walkman Changed Our Music Habits

• CATEGORIES: Features

This has nothing to do with willys, jeeps, 4x4s.  Actually, it has little to do with anything …..

Regular readers will likely remember my post (perhaps memorial is a better term) about C.W.McCall’s Wolf Creek Pass.  After re-reading that post, it seems my prose zig-zagged across topics so far and so wide, that to call it a cohesive post would be a kind and generous gift from readers; However, I would never let a lack of cohesiveness stop my good intentions nor keep me from attempting, because to say I attempt is fair, but to say I always succeed would be too generous, to entertain readers!

So, where am I going with this?  It seems nowhere fast, so let’s get to it already!  In the aforementioned post, one of the topics I cover was my own audiophile history, or the lack thereof, particularly my first experience with my cousin’s Walkman II.  While I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the Walkman II, I knew very little about the history of the original Walkman until I ran across a fabulous post, Quiet Revolution, at the Rhapsody blog.

Now, as readers are already painfully aware, I am no audiophile, but I am certainly a history buff.  And in the Rhapsody post Quiet Revolution, Tim Quirk constructs a fascinating slice of audio history and tells a strongly argued story of how the Walkman was the real game changer for how most of us listen to music.

Some highlights:

1) The original Sony Walkman, launched in 1979, came with an orange button and two headphone connections.  Why?  Because, of course, no one would want to listen to music by themselves!  And the orange button lowered the music with a simple click so that you could communicate with a friend (see images from the ad campaign below and contrast that with the solitary, almost non human, solitary dancers from today’s ipod ads)!

2) The stereobelt was invented in 1972 by Andreas Pavel, but was rejected by electronic companies because executives at the electronic companies argued that people would not want to run around with headphones.

3) Almost 40% of Guns N’ Roses fans also listen to Tim McGraw. Nearly as many listen to Kenny Chesney or Garth Brooks. How many radio stations play all four?  That’s the essence of the choice these devices have provided.

Some of the Walkman’s original ads …

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