Ever since the device was launched in 1979, the Sony Walkman became one of the most prominent means of music consumption throughout the ‘80s, with some 400 million units of them having been sold in multiple formats throughout its lifetime.
The term “walkman” even became a catch-all term to describe almost any portable music player – and entered the Oxford English Dictionary in 1986. Technology outlet The Verge even once said “the world changed” upon the Walkman’s release.
But as with all such tech success stories, the indomitable rise which led to it having its moment in the spotlight eventually gave way to newer, more convenient devices that would knock it off its perch.
The Walkman’s cassette players first took a battering from the advent of CDs, before the launch of the iPod at the turn of the century eventually signalled the death knell for Sony’s Walkman, which would stop production in 2010.
That is, of course, until now.
With a sleek video and big promises around “an engineered evolution in portable sound”, Sony have announced the release of the new NW-ZX707 and NW-A306 models.
The NW-A306 is priced at around £310 ($375). The price for the premium NW-ZX707 is around £650 ($788) and will only be available in Japan initially.
As you’d expect, given more than a decade has elapsed since Walkmans were first discontinued, the new devices have a range of improved features, from battery life to easy downloading – and, most prominently, audio quality.
Music can be either streamed via Wi-Fi or downloaded to these new models.
There’s a certain irony of course to all of this – and a reminder that history, even in the world of technology, isn’t a linear path, but repeats and doubles back on itself.
Not only have cassette sales begun to shoot back up, with new figures from information company Luminate reporting an increase of 28% in sales of cassettes between 2021 and 2022; but Apple announced last year that it was stopping production of its iPod.
So, with plenty of ongoing industrial strike action, some notable hardliners in our government offices, and the Walkman soon to more likely fit in people’s pockets than an iPod, it’s like it’s the ‘80s all over again.