The Radical Effect of the Sony Walkman

03 Jan 2015

Like the transistor radio in the 50s and 60s, the Sony Walkman and its competitors (like TEAC, Panasonic, Toshiba, Aiwa and many others) defined the portable music market. 

  • The first North American model of the Walkman, the TPS-L2, was introduced in June 1980.  It weighed 14 ounces and ran on two AA batteries.
  • The first Walkman had two headphone jacks because Sony couldn’t fathom anyone not wanting to share in their music-listening experience.
  • “Walkman” entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986.


  • In 1983, pre-recorded cassettes outsold vinyl records, largely because of the popularity of portable music players like the Walkman.
  • The Walkman coincided with the fitness craze of the 80s.  The Walkman made workouts more entertaining.



  • Walkmans spurred the behavior of making mixtapes and cassette copies of vinyl albums (and later CDs).  Alarmed by this, the music industry launched the “Home Taping is Killing Music Dead” campaign.  It didn’t work.
  • As more people acquired Walkman-type devices, the more socially acceptable it came to appear in public wearing headphones, sealed off from all outside interactions by music.
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