October 26th, 2010
06:14 AM GMT
Share this on:

(CNN) - When I woke up to the news that Sony was discontinuing its storied Walkman cassette line in Japan, my first thought was:  Sony still makes cassette Walkmans?

At age 19 I formed a close bond with my cassette Walkman, which kept me awake and sane working a midnight shift at an Indiana factory. I got the Discman when it came out, but used it less frequently as the player hopped and skipped with my stride, and put away portable music for a decade until I purchased my first iPod.

My evolution mirrors the arc of the Walkman line – its popularity ebbed with compact discs and waned with digital downloads. The cassette Walkman changed the way the world listened to music, and now an icon bites the dust.

Or does it?

Interesting in Sony’s plans to stop Japanese production of Walkman cassette is the caveat that limited production will still continue out of China to serve cassette fans in some markets, primarily in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

“In terms of popularity, the Mp3 and Mp4 is the most popular around the world, including Asia and developing countries,” Sony spokesperson Yuki Kobayashi told me. “Although the demand is minor (for the cassette player), the demand is still there.

Kobayashi is quick to point out that the Walkman brand isn’t going anywhere (a misimpression that concerns the company in the current crush of press – the Walkman line, primarily digital players, is expected to sell 7.3 million units this year).

“I would guess that people who still have cassette media would like to use the players, and those are the people who want to buy (the cassette Walkman),” she said.

Sometimes old brands get new life in developing markets. Volkswagen’s Beetle slid into novelty status in the 1980s, yet remained popular and in production in Mexico The company relaunched the line with the “New Beetle” in 1998. The Ford “Falcon” only flew a decade out of Detroit, but is celebrating its 50th year of production in Australia.

“Friendster,” that pioneer of social networking, faded in the wake of MySpace, then Facebook, but still remained popular in Southeast Asia; Malaysia’s MOL Global purchased the site last year.

Perhaps the cassette Walkman will find a second life yet.

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. trudie denney

    how sad its the very last day.....end of an earra...xx

    October 26, 2010 at 7:16 am |
  2. Sixer Saturn

    Why do people always seize the slightest opportunity to talk about themselves in the guise of reporting on the merits or demerits of some object? It really smacks of unprofessionalism to me. Get over yourself Dude.

    October 26, 2010 at 7:30 am |
  3. Kay

    Sixer Saturn:
    It's a blog not an article about Walkman specifically. Perhaps you need to get over yourself?

    October 26, 2010 at 8:51 am |
  4. Joshua Hernandez

    I really won't miss the Walkman that much, but I would miss cassettes if they stop making them and I'll tell you why. I'm in my 30s and remember them well and am sad they are fading away. Plus, I'm a musician and an audiophile that thought, and still thinks, cassette tapes are great. In fact, I still record my music using those obsolete 4 and 8 track Tascam multi tracks tape recorders and mix my music to tape instead of using digital, which I find sterile and frustrating without the warmth and hands on feel of tape. But, I can't say that I still make mixes for my Walkman because I don't. In this way, I feel portable digital has won in the form of MP3s, even if the MP3 in terms of sound quality is an inferior medium to vinyl record, CD or even tape in my opinion.

    The Walkman always had good and bad points. The good point was that it made music portable with decent sound quality. It was a step down from cassettes you made at home if you had professional equipment, but you could make mixes of you favorite music with good quality if you had a Sony or Phillips deck with type II or IV tapes. Also, prerecorded cassettes you bought at the store were cheap, durable, and had pretty good sound quality. The bad points was that you got wobbly sound from a Walkman if you ran and the tape got out of ailment or anything like that. Sure, other models came out that tried to improve on those bad points, but they never totally fixed the problem. But still, having portable music was great.

    Then came the portable CD player. It was nice to bring CDs on-the-go, but the players in the 90s suffered from skipping all the time. In fact, when I got one as a present in 1997 I returned it to Target. They improved on it and I actually got a good one in 2003 for the first time. Before that, I had stayed true to the Walkman. Though, I hated the fact that I had to carry around one of those CD cases that would constantly scratch up your CDs, sometimes making you buy the CD again if you didn't make a CD-R copy which were always inferior to the original CD.

    Then, around 2006 I finally got an MP3. I loved it. Not only could I select songs at the touch of my fingers, I didn't have to carry anything other than the player with me. Plus, no more skips or wobbly sound.

    Now, I'm not trying to defend the MP3. In fact, for audiophiles like me I find it a horrible medium in term of audio quality. Just listen closely to an MP3 ripped at a low sampling rate and compare it to the CD or vinyl. Even at the highest rate, which is 320kbps, it is not as good as having the original medium. Now, MP3 are convenient, especially since I live in Korea right now in my life and don't have any of my vinyl, CDs or tapes with me. But, MP3s are good enough.

    But, the on medium I don't have is my Walkman. It's in a box in my parent's attic and has been there for years. I might use it ever now and again to be nostalgic, but I really would do it for the convenience factor anymore. But, I still love tapes and listen to and use them to play music any chance I get. I don't think I will ever say that about an MP3.

    October 26, 2010 at 12:16 pm |
  5. panobuz

    sixer? is that your I.Q. ?

    October 26, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  6. jako david waluluka

    even here in africa the walkman is no longer very visible.in uganda you will have to run around to get one.i think sony has made the right decision.RIP walkman

    October 26, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  7. Brian Elwin Pomeroy

    I would like to see GM bring back the the 1973 Chevy Nova with the 250 CI and Two Speed Auto.
    I would bet many countries could save and prosper in the future with these cars.

    October 27, 2010 at 5:09 am |
  8. salma gul

    Here in south east asia I don't see the walkman. Maybe "friendster" is still popular but not sure about walkman.

    October 29, 2010 at 8:03 am |
  9. cracked

    That is very attention-grabbing, You're an overly skilled blogger. I have joined your rss feed and look forward to in quest of extra of your magnificent post. Additionally, I have shared your site in my social networks

    May 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm |

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About Business 360

CNN International's business anchors and correspondents get to grips with the issues affecting world business, and they want your questions and feedback.

Powered by WordPress.com VIP