40 th Anniversary of the Sony Walkman: Shaping the future of music

Sometime in the early months of 1979, Akio Morita – Chairman for one of the most renowned technological and electronic companies in the world Sony Corporation – gathered an audience of youthful engineers, planners, and journalists to introduce a modified version of the Sony Pressman.


Morita described the prototype as “…the product that will satisfy those young people who want to listen to music all day. They’ll take it everywhere with them, and…if we put a playback-only headphone stereo like this on the market, it’ll be a hit.” On July 1, 1979 or exactly forty years ago, this prototype was launched in Japan as the Sony Walkman TPS-L2, the first ever portable music player. It was priced at around ¥33,000.00 or approximately P1,200.00 in Philippine currency at that time.


Photo credit to: https://www.usatoday.com

Due to its portable design, the iconic blue and silver Walkman allowed users to listen to their favorite music anytime and anywhere without worrying about disturbing others in the area through the use of headphones directly plugged into the unit.


With the unit, plugged-in headphones, a set of batteries, and a cassette tape full of one’s favorite tunes, users were able to bring along and enjoy their music virtually anywhere. Due to the explosive rise in popularity of the portable music player, Aiwa followed suit and launched the Cassetteboy in 1980 which was said to be the first Walkman rival in the portable music player market.


Two years after the first Walkman launch, Sony released a second-generation Walkman, the WM-2 which was reported to be the best-selling Walkman of all time with more than 1.5 Million units sold. The WM-2 was noticeably smaller in size compared to the first-gen TPS-L2.


In 1982, Sony and Philips developed the first compact discs which were sold in Japan. A year thereafter, Sony was able to reduce the size of the Walkman to the size of a cassette box. In 1984, the Discman portable CD player was introduced which used compact discs instead of the traditional cassette tapes.


In 1987, Sony introduced yet another breakthrough – the first Walkman even smaller than a cassette box. In the same year, the first ever Walkman TPS-L2 unit becomes part of the permanent display in the Smithsonian Museum.


By the year 1993, Sony has sold a total of 100 million units of Walkman products worldwide. With rampant advances in technology, the portable music player market goes digital nearing the end of the 20 th century. In 1999, Sony launched the Memory Stick Walkman. A spokesman from Sony announced that the Memory Stick Walkman was supposedly designed to address the “proliferation of illegal music exchanges on the Internet and to create a new standard for portable audio players.”


In 2001, Apple released the iPod and, in 2007, the first iPhone took the market by storm. The introduction of budget smartphones that offer the capability of playing digital music downloaded straight from the internet pushed away the cassette and disc player even further. Until in 2010, cassette Walkman products were withdrawn from the market and the MiniDisc Walkman followed suit in the next year.


In 2016, Sony introduced the high-end Signature Walkman series with the most expensive variant selling for a whopping ¥300,000.00 or around P100,000.00 in local currency.


While the age of Walkman cassette players have certainly come to an end, it is truly nostalgic – especially for those who have owned any portable music player – to walk along memory lane and reminisce those magical times when we had our first portable music device where we could listen to our songs anywhere we wanted.



Music on the Move: Sony’s Walkman Turns 40

Walkman turns 40 years old

Before Apple iPods and iPhones, there was Sony Walkman. 40 years of portable music


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Want to know the latest news and openings in Japan.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Promise, we’ll keep you posted!