Sony Ceases Walkman Cassette Production in Japan
After 30 years in production, the once-ubiquitous Walkman cassette tape
player is going the way of the dinosaur and floppy disks-at least in Japan,
according to manufacturer Sony. The company said its April shipment of players
would be the last for the Japanese market, though the devices will still be
sold in emerging markets in Asia and the Middle
East. Since their introduction in 1979, more than 220 million
Walkman cassette players have been sold worldwide.
"There is still demand in certain regions, including emerging markets, but in Japan there has been a shift to other forms of recording media," Tokyo-based Sony spokesman George Boyd told The Telegraph. "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."
The Mainichi Daily News reported on Friday that Sony had no plans at present to halt the production of Walkman players for CDs or minidiscs (MDs) although their demand is also on a downturn, according to officials. Facing competition first from CDs and then from digital sales from Apple's iTunes store and other online outlets, sales demand for cassette tapes has continually declined over the years. The metal-cased, blue-and-silver Walkman TPS-L2, the original model, was named the most influential music invention of last 50 years in 2009 by the technology magazine T3.
The last play-only cassette Walkman to be introduced (in North America, at least) was the WM-FX290, first sold in 2002, which also featured digital tuning, AM, FM, TV and weather band radio, operating on a single AA battery. Until 1999, every five years since the Walkman personal stereo was born in 1979, Sony would celebrate by coming out with an anniversary cassette model on July 1. Each anniversary model carried a different theme while retaining some characteristics of previous anniversary models.
The invention of the Walkman is credited to Sony founder and chief adviser, the late Masaru Ibuka, and Sony founder and honorary chairman Akio Morita, who disliked the name Walkman and wanted to see it changed, only to be told it would be too expensive and too late to re-brand the device. Disappointed though Morita may have been with the device's moniker, he seemed to know a good idea when he saw one. "This is the product that will satisfy those young people who want to listen to music all day," he was reported to have said. "They'll take it everywhere with them, and they won't care about record functions. If we put a playback-only headphone stereo like this on the market, it'll be a hit."
Despite the death of the Walkman cassette player, the Walkman brand lives on, surviving in digital formats, portable CD players and on mobile phones marketed under the Sony Ericsson brand. Online retail outlets such as Amazon.com and BestBuy.com currently show Walkman cassette models still available for purchase, lest nostalgic users feel a last-minute pang of longing for the devices. Best Buy's website lists a Walkman cassette player sporting a digital AM/FM tuner with 33 station presets and 4-band weather updates, a digital LED display, 35 hours of battery life from 1 AA battery and digital auto preset scanning. Also included is the famous belt clip, which gave high-stepping music enthusiasts the ability to rock out while they walked out.