I think the papers are making more of this story than they should (since Sony are in fact still selling tape-based Walkmans in some markets), but the story is an opportunity to consider how the Walkman changed us.
Often cited as one of the greatest gadget inventions of all time it has been squeezed out by portable CD players and latterly the advent of digital rivals, most notably Apple’s iPod.
Since its launch in 1979 around 220 million Walkmans have been sold worldwide and the ground-breaking, pocket-sized music player was cherished by a generation of joggers and teenagers.
David Hepworth, over on his blog, posts a short piece about how the Walkman made music – which was always a social activity – into a private one. I think the Walkman is to blame for the tendency to insulate yourself from the world in earbuds, but music is still a social activity for some people.
For example, teenagers on buses do like to annoy their fellow passengers by playing their grime music through tinny little speakers on their phones – much as Teddy Boys in the 50s would have played their rock ‘n’ roll through a transistor radio.
People do like to share headphones, too, though unless all your music is encoded in mono at least one of you is missing out on Eric Clapton’s guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.
And as a commenter points out on David Hepworth’s post, people do tend to yack yack their way through gigs. This tends to be seen by true music fans as anti-social behaviour. In the end, the Walkman and the iPod are probably responsible for making us all a little bit more selfish and less concerned about other people.