Sony Stops Selling the Cassette Walkman in Japan After 30 Years

NEW YORK | Monday, October 25th, 2010 7:30am EDT

More than 30 years after the world’s first personal stereo system was launched and 200 million sales, Sony has stopped selling the cassette tape Walkman in Japan.

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First introduced on July 1st, 1979 in Japan, the cassette Walkman model TPS-L2 was the first affordable and truly portable music player, although sales were initially slow, with the company only shifting 3,000 units in its first month. Photo: SonyInsider.com

After booting the floppy disk into touch earlier this year, Sony has now decided to retire the long serving cassette Walkman, after the final batch shipped to Japanese retailers in April, according to IT Media.

Once these units are sold, new cassette Walkmans will no longer be available through the manufacturer.

The first Walkman (which was called the Soundabout in the U.S., and the Stowaway in the UK) was released on July 1st, 1979 in Japan and it was the first affordable and truly portable music player.

It wasn’t an overnight hit though, it was largely panned by the media and only sold 3,000 units by the end of July. But Sony kept on pushing, targeting the Walkman toward the younger market and advertising it with younger pop stars.

By the end of August, sales increased 10-fold and later in the early 80’s it became the must-have item for everyone.

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A model shows the first cassette Walkman TPS-L2. Photo: SonyInsider.com

Credited with changing the way in which people listened to music, it was dreamed up by Nobutoshi Kihara, an engineer in Sony’s audio division, in response to a request from Akio Morita, the company’s joint chairman, who wanted to be able to listen to operas during his frequent long-haul business flights.

With the arrival of CDs, however, the tape Walkman’s popularity began to decline, although Sony did bring out the Discman to meet that shift.

But the advent of downloadable music with devices that are able to store thousands of songs signalled the end of the Walkman in Japan, and the last one for the domestic market was produced on Friday.

Over its 30 year history of the Cassette Walkman, Sony sold 200 million units. A portable music player became a part of our lives, largely because of the Walkman.

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Here is a photo of the the cassette Walkman model TPS-L2 with the 2009 Sony Walkman line-up. Photo: SonyInsider.com

However, sales had been declining in recent years, increasingly so since the introduction of the iPod, but Sony has no plans to stop selling the cassette tape Walkman in other markets, the company said.

“There is still demand in certain regions, including emerging markets, but in Japan there has been a shift to other forms of recording media,” said George Boyd, a spokesman for Sony in Tokyo.

“But there is still residual demand for tape players and while we are phasing out the tape version of the Walkman here, tape as a format is still around and we will continue to sell tape decks for as long as the market is there,” he said.

Somewhat ironically, the announcement was delivered just one day ahead of the iPod’s ninth anniversary on October 23rd, 2010.

p.s. The Walkman created a totally new market for portable stereo systems, and its legacy is still warmly remembered by many people today. Tell us in the comments below about your experiences with Sony’s Walkman devices. [via Daily Telegraph (UK), Mashable and SonyInsider]

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