One of life’s probably underrated traits is the ability to invent something to cure a personal problem and that of many others. Here is the context: when Sony’s co-founder, Masaru Ibuka, wanted to listen to music as he sat through the extra-long flights, he influenced the invention of the Sony Walkman. This ended up being what people needed at the time (if anything about the product’s sales is to go by). Here, we discuss some fascinating Walkman facts that will evoke some memories.

1. Sony Released The First Walkman In 1979

The first version of Walkman was released and marketed by Sony in 1979. It was a metal-cased blue-and-silver portable audio player dubbed the TPS-L2 Walkman. Other than being the world’s first low-cost personal stereo, Walkman yielded high-quality sound that had never been experienced before on similar devices.

2. Sony Waterproof Walkman Was Sold in a Bottle of Water

To prove that the items were indeed waterproof, Sony sold their waterproof Walkman audio portable devices in bottles full of water.

3. Sony Walkman Sales Exceeded Expectations When It Was First Launched

When the original Walkman version was released in 1979, it cost about ¥33,000 (an equivalent of about $150). Although it was more affordable than most similar products in the market, Sony feared that it would only sell a maximum of 5,000 units in the first month. Surprisingly, more than 30,000 Walkman devices were sold in the first couple of months.

4. Walkman Was First Marketed Under Different Names

Before the name “Walkman” finally caught up and Sony used it for global marketing, the company used different monikers to sell the devices in other regions. First up was “Wasei-eigo,” which several international sales agents objected to. Subsequent ones included “Sound-about” for the United States, “Stowaway” for the United Kingdom, and “Freestyle” for Sweden and Australia.

5. There is the “Walkman Effect”

According to Shuhei Hosokawa, a professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, the “Walkman Effect” refers to how people listen to audio through headphones. First used in 1984, the phenomenon is not limited to Sony’s Walkman; it is also true for similar products such as the Apple iPod.

6. The 1980s Were Highly Significant for Sony Walkman’s Development

The period between 1981 and 1990 was highly significant to Walkman’s development; it’s when the device rose to fame and cemented its place as one of the best inventions of the time. Three years after the development of the original Walkman, Sony released the WM-2 in 1981. It was relatively smaller and more efficient than the pioneer. By the end of the 80s, Walkman controlled 46% of Japan’s and 50% of the United States’ market share. More than 100 million Walkman units had been sold worldwide by 1989.

7. Sony Used Literal “Walk-Men” (and Women) to Advertise the Walkman Device

Because the idea of walking/traveling while listening to music was still alien when Sony developed the Walkman, the company had to aggressively market the device to stand a chance of success. To do that, Sony hired “Walk-Men” and “Walk-Women” (general young adults) to walk around in public while wearing a Walkman. They would stop random people, asking them to test their products.

8. Walkman’s Diversity Strongly Worked in Its Favor

One of the biggest factors that guaranteed success for Walkman was its diversity. Before the invention, the only portable music source was a radio, which had many limitations. For instance, listening to a radio station meant music was chosen for the listener. Walkman allowed users to customize their music, selling it as a product for everybody.

9. The Word “Walkman” Was Entered into the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986

Thanks to the immense influence of Walkman portable audio devices in the 1980s, the word “Walkman” was entered into the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986. The device had become an icon of the period’s culture.

10. Walkman Helped Increase the Number of People Who Exercised

At the height of Walkman’s popularity, the number of people exercising increased by about 30%. They would purchase a Walkman, load it with their preferred music, and then use headphones to listen to them as they trained.

11. The Word “Walkman” Became So Popular in Germany That Everyone Was Allowed to Use It

By 2002, the word “Walkman” had become so popular in German as a generic term that a judge ruled anyone, even outside Sony, could use it to refer to such a device.

12. Walkman Devices Were Banned from Being Used in Public in Woodbridge, New Jersey

By 1982, Walkman devices had flooded the United States market to the extent that they caused safety controversies. For instance, in Woodbridge, New Jersey, the town’s mayor banned people from listening to Walkman portable audio players in public. The number of pedestrian accidents had soared, leading to the decision.

13. There Are Some Walkman Version Still Produced Today

Although Walkman’s popularity sharply plummeted with the development of other technological devices, some versions are still produced today. However, they no longer use the “Network” prefix, which was famous in the past – the “NW” prefix is still present. Some examples of modern Walkman devices include the A Series, B Series, and WM1 Series.

14. There Was a Walkman Alternative Called Sony Watchman

While the Walkman focused on audio, the Sony Watchman provided visual options. First introduced in 1982, the portable pocket television allowed users to watch their favorite programs on the go. The Sony Watchman was discontinued in 2000.

15. Before the Walkman, There Was the Pressman

Before the introduction of Sony’s Walkman, there was the Pressman. As its name suggests, Pressman was primarily used by journalists. Other similarly named products include Discman (mainly used for playing CDs) and Watchman (a portable TV line).

16. More Than 100 Walkman Models Are Available

Slightly over a decade after Sony Walkman hit the market, the company had produced and sold over 80 different models. Their features and prices varied. The most popular ones were solar-powered, had double tape decks, used remote controls, had dual headphone jacks for social listening on the go, and were water resistant.

17. Walkman Has Attracted a Fair Share of Criticism

Before mobile devices and other similar products, Sony’s Walkman was the first to attract criticism from certain sections of the communities worldwide. A fair chunk of people were of the idea that Walkman promoted narcissism, rudeness, and detachment. Users spent time on their devices that traditional placed-based community interaction was hampered. Rainer Schonhammer was among those who heavily criticized the devices.

18. Walkman Influenced the Development of Cassettes

Prior to the invention of Sony’s Walkman, vinyl players were the trendsetters; they were the dominant selling music format. However, Walkman soon popularized cassettes. By 1983, cassettes had overtaken vinyl players as the top and preferred music format.

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Last Update: February 21, 2024