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Point of View: Originator of music on the go prepares for end

Nov. 9, 2010

By Samreen Hooda
Reporter

On July 1, 1979, the first Walkman was created in Japan by Sony's co-founder Akio Morita and last week the last set of Walkmans were sold to Japanese markets.

Once this batch is sold off the shelves, no more Walkmans will be made for this market. Though the Walkman will continue to be sold in China and other international markets, it is in Japan where the Walkman first had its genesis more than three decades ago.

This is the beginning of the end for the first personal, portable music device that reshaped how music was heard. Shutting down production in one region is just a precursor to its eventual decline elsewhere.

This is not just the end of one technology, but also the demise of a product that brought acute cultural change to the way we viewed and accessed music.

The Walkman journeyed through its American Dream, fulfilling its life's purpose until it gave rise to the young, fresh technologies of the future.

It was the Walkman that brought music from the communal sphere into the private world of the individual.

The Walkman reshaped the discussion of privacy and the evolution of personal space. People could be in very public places and still have a very private experience. Attention and focus could turn completely inward in parks, on subways or walking through downtown. And of course, the Walkman was the precursor to the Discman, iPod, the Nano, and later the iPhone and iPad, as well as whatever other forms of personal music players have yet to evolve.

The Walkman also brought freedom to music. People could listen to whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted.

We could copy our favorites onto a tape rather than having to listen to what was playing on the radio. Music fans could compile their own mixes and young lovers could make mix tapes for their significant others to listen to in private.

The Walkman first made portable the ability to listen to music, creating a new culture of running with music that made its mark even into the exercise industry.

Clearly over the years, the Walkman has made its mark, selling more than 220 million units in a little more than three decades, and it may continue to sell more, at least in the U.S.

There are no immediate plans to cut the Walkman production and distribution here in the States where, a Sony spokesperson told LA Times, there is still a "consistent but small demand."

As the Walkman's steady life comes to an end in the country that birthed it, it may only be a matter of time before the Walkman meets its quiet demise.

The once innovative, cutting-edge technology of the Walkman has reached the end of its days. Isn't that remarkable?

Samreen Hooda is a senior journalism major from Dallas and a reporter to the Lariat.