You wouldn’t think that an anniversary is a good time to say goodbye, and start anew. I’d been putting if off for a long time, trying to deny what was going on, and avoiding the inevitable. There was something wrong, had been for a long time, and I didn’t want to admit it. But this year, it was time to face the truth.
This year, Sony celebrated the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the Walkman. This little device was significant because it not only allowed us to make music portable, but perhaps just as importantly, forever changed how we communicate (or more accurately, don’t communicate) with each other in public spaces. Now, it was suddenly acceptable to willfully ignore people, and not get slack for it.
Over the years, I accumulated so many great memories of listening to my Sony Walkman cassette-player: On my hour-long walk to work in the summer; on the long train ride heading home from university; or just going for aimless walks downtown on warm summer nights, with nowhere specific to go, with nothing—and yet everything—to think about. As my love affair with the Walkman progressed, I went through three models, improving on features with each one (although I never did splurge for the famous yellow Sports Walkman, never being sporty enough to find the justification for it). My last one was one of the most sophisticated models that Walkman had ever made among portable cassette-players: besides the usual bells and whistles, it also featured things that were rare at the time, such as AVLS; a hold button; a proprietary rechargeable battery (or the option of using just one regular AA battery, a single battery being quite a rarity); a digital tuner; and finally, headphones with a remote control, so that you wouldn’t even have to reach into your pocket to access the main unit (I know, how cool is that?!). Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so it was, with the cassette-player.
I had put it away for about five years, listening mainly to CDs and having no use for a cassette-player. But when news articles of Sony’s 30th anniversary hit the media, I suddenly remembered my old friend, and found two of my most recent Walkmans (Walkmen?) in a dusty cardboard box. I gave one to my daughter, who is thrilled that she can now listen to the radio while walking about, but decided to hold on to the more sophisticated one. But after years of enjoyment, I now found that there was a slight malfunction in it. Or maybe it was protesting my neglect of it all these years? In any case, the cassette-player all of a sudden would not play, and the battery connection was loose. Locating a repair-person for a cassette-player from about 10 years ago would be difficult, and likely, not worth the money. In short, there was no hope for it. My Sony Walkman cassette-player was dead. It was time to move on.
For years, I always said to myself that I would never join the MP3 crowd. I hate following the crowd, especially when it comes to having the latest and greatest of anything, and especially when it comes to technological gidgets and gadgets. I, who resisted the lure of the cell phone for years, until my husband insisted on me having one (for security and business reasons, he said). I, who never owned a PDA, when it was all the rage (I don’t own a Blackberry, and don’t intend to). I, who when I won an iPod as a door prize three years ago, immediately gave it to my husband without a moment’s hesitation. So why would I finally give in to the MP3 lure? Because there is no other option. Whereas I can always use a payphone or a pen and paper, I can’t listen to music on cassette, or even CD, as they’re both becoming quickly obsolete as portable music options. I’m left with no choice.
All is not lost, however, with the relationship that I have with the Sony Walkman. When I sat down for one day of research into the many types of MP3 players, I quickly unearthed a mountain of reviews on MP3 players, quite a lot of which included the words, “the Walkman beats an i-anything out there”, and “their marketing machine is strong, but my i-*** broke down within a year”. On the other hand, the Walkman walked away with stellar reviews, from its entry-level machine, to its $500 top-of-the-line performers. So that’s what I went with, and I couldn’t be happier.
For now, I’m content with my entry-level Walkman MP3, and it’ll be years before I fill up my 8 GB and have to upgrade. So although I’ll always have fond memories of my first-generation Sony Walkman cassette-players, I’m happy to start a brand-new love affair with its sibling.