Monday, July 13, 2009

The Walkman Turns 30

Although it may seem like an irrelevant dinosaur now, back in the day, the Walkman was the item to have, especially if you were a teenage boy on the go. It’s hard to believe that the Walkman is now 30 years old. Over that amount of time, Sony has sold 385 million Walkman machines worldwide.

As a teenager (and a pre-teen) my Walkman was probably my most valuable asset next to my tape collection. This was a way to portray teenage rebellion and antisocial behaviors without making a loud statement that would lead to a fight with the parents. Anytime I didn’t want to be somewhere, didn’t want to hear what the grownups had to say, or didn’t want to listen to my parents country music in the car, I could snap on my headphones and listen to Ratt, Poison, and countless other bands.

I don’t recall how many Walkmans I had over the course of my teenage years, but I know it was several. And when the portable CD player came out, I upgraded to that as well. The Walkman was my savior, my friend, and my confidant. I spent many a night falling asleep with the headphones on, knowing that when the end of the tape came up, the trusty walkman would stop, thus not killing the batteries.

Batteries were the biggest drawback to the walkman. Those machines would suck down batteries like I consume beer on a Saturday night. There were never enough in the house, and God forbid if the batteries died on a long road trip. As a kid, before I was working part time and making my own money, it was hard to get my hands on batteries. My parents would buy them from time to time, and my grandfather was always good for a bucketful of yard sale batteries (that lasted an hour to two if I was lucky), but fresh Duracells reigned supreme. I seemed to constantly fight with my sister over who got the good batteries, and I usually came out on the losing end.

It’s amazing that 30 years have gone by since the invention of the Walkman. Perhaps I just don’t like to think about the passage of time in great big gaps like that, as it reminds me that I am not getting any younger. I wonder what it would be like to slap on a Walkman and take a ride on my bike just like I did back in the days of my youth. I haven’t touched a walkman in over a decade, but I’m sure if it I went to my grandfather’s house, I could rustle up three of them in less than ten minutes. It would be a nice way to pass a nostalgic Saturday afternoon, especially if I dug deep into my tape collection (yes I still own cassette tapes) and pulled out some real gems like Level 42’s Running in the Family, or Heart’s Bad Animals.

Did you own a Walkman? Was it the savior of your teenaged years, or was it just something that collected dust and was pulled out occasionally (like for the family road trip to Grandma’s house)?

Comments are open. Feel free to post some.

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