The Conversation: Walkman Era Limps to a Close

As Sony retires milestone music player in Japan, "The Conversation" looks back.

ByABC News
October 25, 2010, 7:18 AM

Oct. 25, 2010 — -- The Sony Walkman is about to go mute, but it's not because the AA batteries are running out. After more than 30 years of making the Walkman, Sony has announced it has stopped producing the portable cassette tape player in Japan.

While iPods and other digital music players have long since supplanted the Walkman tape player in most Americans' ears, rewind back to 1979 when the electronic gadget first went on sale and sparked a true revolution.

"It started to push this idea of mobility," said Nick Bilton, lead technology reporter for the New York Times. "You couldn't really walk around or sit on a subway with a record player and listen to music. You could with a Walkman."

Over 220 million cassette Walkman players have been sold since they were first introduced, giving rise to the mix tape and the phenomonal growth of the music industry itself, not to mention the tape jam.

"Before then, the music industry was essentially an industry being listened to at home," said Bilton. But once the Walkman was introduced, Bilton added, casette sales "just skyrocketed during that time. It was a huge thing for the industry."

While the Japanese-made Walkman will soon be disappearing from store shelves, the hardy tape deck technology isn't ready to go away completely. Sony plans to continue producing the cassette Walkman in China for sale in the U.S. and Europe. The Walkman brand also lives on, on everything from Sony-Ericsson cellphones to portable video players.

Bilton spoke to ABC's John Berman for today's Conversation. We hope you'll watch.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Watch more "Conversation" videos here.

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