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A Lament for the Walkman - Sony Finally Drop the Iconic Name

I’m not a child of the 80s, I was born 9 months into 1990, Margaret Thatcher was already contemplating an exit strategy, everyone was getting bored with MTV and Jane’s Addiction were only a few months away from breaking up. Bearing that in mind, I was never really on board with the whole Walkman phenomenon, but talk to anyone born from about 1983 and back it’s a pretty fair bet they had one, or at least knew somebody who did.

It’s amusing to think just how massive of a revelation it was back then to have music on the go. Before the Walkman the nearest equivalent would be someone walking down the street with a boom box over their shoulder, blasting N.W.A. at full volume to entertain their friends and irritate anyone that doesn’t like N.W.A. Sony were the originators of the brand and their decision to use it as an ambassador for Japanese principles about compactness in technology overseas was one of the earliest precursors for the portable tech revolution that we’re still going through today. Just look at this early advert:

It was an iconic movement which lead cassette tapes to outsell vinyl for the very first time. The Walkman was the Apple Watch of its time, the top shelf product rising above a sea of imitators. Even Patrick Bateman had one (though I’m not certain that’s a good thing). Even as the cassette tape became obsolete the name endured, moving over to CD and then gradually shrinking, from increasingly more compact MP3 players to phones to MP3 headphones until it finally reached the logical conclusion and became completely incorporeal, as an app.

Now, finally, Sony has done away with the name. The app has been renamed simply ‘Music’ in the latest update, seemingly in a bid to move away from their old image and repackage their mobile service. It’s not a good sign, Sony have been trailing behind Apple and Android for the past few years and their music service is practically a non-entity at this stage. Even their touted PlayStation Music feature has now been absorbed into the pulsating streaming amoeba of Spotify in order to survive. Sony have been sprinting frantically to keep up with mobile trends for a long time, they won’t give up, they’re stubborn like that, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that compared to gaming and audio-visual technology, it’s by far the company’s weakest arm.

Whilst rebranding can be a lifesaver in scenarios like this, I’m not sure retiring the Walkman name was necessarily the best way to do it, there’s a lot of power in nostalgia and Sony would do well to keep a few reminders around that they were one of the first true tech giants. In any case, even if Sony have dropped the moniker, Walkman will always remain a household name. Like hoover, bubble wrap, sharpie, velcro and many other names, it has transcended the brand and become a catch all term for the product it was named for. Think about it, if you wanted to ask someone to find a portable cassette player for you, how would you refer to it? Exactly.

Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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A Lament for the Walkman - Sony Finally Drop the Iconic Name Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 Rating: 5

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