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2003/165/1 Audio cassette player, Sony Walkman model TPS-L2, metal /plastic / fabric / electronic components, designed by the Sony Design Centre, created by Akio Morita, Masaru Ibuka (the co-founders of SONY) and Kozo Ohsone, made by Sony Corporation, Japan, 1979. Click to enlarge.

The first SONY Walkman, design and manufactured by SONY, Japan, 1979

Made
Advances in transistor and microprocessor technologies brought about a revolution in mobile and wearable personal consumer products in the late twentieth century.

One of the most important products to impact upon this design, social and fashion trend was the Sony Walkman, which was first marketed in 1979. Sony reconfigured existing technology into a compact package that delivered high quality sound and was attractive, portable and simple to operate. The Sony Walkman was of original design, was an immediate commercial success internationally and within months was imitated by countless manufacturers in superficial variations of Sony's design.

The Sony Walkman's impact on late twentieth century communication, product design, social and fashion trends, music and media is demonstrated by products, mechanisms and behaviours such as the Discman, MP3 players, mobile telephony, wireless application protocol devices, audio media formats, new modes of distribution and delivery, and studies in the phenomenon of their use in public spaces.

The acquisition of the Walkman builds upon the Information and Communications Technology collection of "design" material and more recent acquisitions of personal mobile devices. The design, development, marketing and social impact of the Sony Walkman are extraordinarily well documented (du Guy, Hall, Janes, Mackay, Negus - Doing Cultural Studies, SAGE, 1997).

Campbell Bickerstaff, 2003

Summary

Object No.

2003/165/1

Object Statement

Audio cassette player, Sony Walkman model TPS-L2, metal /plastic / fabric / electronic components, designed by the Sony Design Centre, created by Akio Morita, Masaru Ibuka (the co-founders of SONY) and Kozo Ohsone, made by Sony Corporation, Japan, 1979

Physical Description

The Walkman is a portable audio cassette player. The rectangular, blue and silver coloured case is manufactured from metal and plastic components. Controls are situated along the top and right side, and the front flips open to reveal the tape playing mechanism. There is a small battery casing set in the back. The player slips into a dark navy blue vinyl cover.

An audio cassette was inserted in the mechanism and the device was usually worn on the body of the user during play. It has no speaker or recording facility and was used with headphones.

The orange button on the top mutes an audio program and engages the microphone so that the wearer may listen to their immediate environment. This feature was to counter the isolation factor that many designers thought would detract from the Walkman experience. There are two sockets for headphones provided on the TPS-L2 so that two people could enjoy the audio program. These features were removed from later models as it became clear that isolation was precisely what most users of the Walkman desired.

Marks

Cassette player: in white on the front 'SONY WALKMAN'. Makers plate on the back 'SONY/CASSETTE-PLAYER TPS-L2/BATTERY SUPPLY 1.5V X 2 SIZE AA/PENLIGHT BATTERY OR EQUIV/MADE IN JAPAN/01'.
Cover: in white on front 'SONY'. On back 'MADE IN JAPAN'.

Dimensions

Height

140 mm

Width

98 mm

Depth

40 mm

Production

Designed

Designed

Notes

The genesis of the idea for a personal and portable audio device cannot be attributed to any individual. The confusion surrounding the genesis for the idea within Sony is also well documented (Doing cultural studies: The story of the Sony Walkman, Sage 1997, pp.42-46).

Product design at Sony is considered a priority, and many other roles within the organisation are subordinate to the Sony design team.

Manufactured in Japan by the Sony Corporation.

History

Notes

SONY history

Prior to the 'invention' of the Walkman there was no way to listen to high fidelity audio recordings on a comfortably transportable audio device. Professional recordists used the Nagra or Uher reel to reel tape machines but these were heavy and expensive devices. Existing consumer devices that were 'wearable' consisted of transistor radios usually with a single monophonic earphone piece.

The specifications for the Walkman would include a reliable and robust tape transport, electronics that would read (tape heads) and amplify a signal without introducing excessive distortion, and (most importantly, because this is the component least appreciated for its design and innovation) a set of stereo headphones that were light yet offered good audio dynamics.

Source history

Mr Peter Tilley's father purchased this Walkman around 1980 while on a business trip to the USA. It was much appreciated by Peter and used mostly in his room as a personal audio device. The home in Canberra had a family stereo that was located in the living area; however Peter preferred to make (record) his own audiotapes of music he enjoyed (at a friends' house using a better and more reliable stereo) and listen to them in the privacy of his bedroom. The Walkman also afforded the listener the option of listening to music at substantial volumes without it spilling into adjacent spaces and affecting the audio environment of other people. The Walkman was in use by Peter until 1987, when it was superseded by an Aiwa recording cassette player. Peter retained the device until he responded to a curator's call to fellow staff members for a Sony Walkman in early 2003.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Peter Tilley, 2003

Acquisition Date

24 October 2003

Cite this Object

Harvard

The first SONY Walkman, design and manufactured by SONY, Japan, 1979 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 14 April 2021, <https://ma.as/319747>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/319747 |title=The first SONY Walkman, design and manufactured by SONY, Japan, 1979 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=14 April 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}