How We Now Listen

As effortless as it is to turn on your favorite music and tune out the world around you, and go anywhere, it’s hard to imagine life without the convenience of portable audio.
  But 40 years ago, stereo-to-go was cumbersome, if not impossible. Until Sony introduced this nifty little device called the Walkman.
  Life changed, music changed; certainly how we listened to it did. It became personal and portable; this cassette tape-propelled little brick that delivered quality sound through lightweight headphones at a volume you, only, could fully experience.
  Yeah, just like we do now, with our mobile devices, but this was different. This personal listening experience was never before available until the Walkman.
  Thinking of it now, I still find it amazing.
  In the ‘60s, if you wanted music at the beach, you had to rely on the transistor radio. You accepted the music broadcast through a small monophonic speaker on whatever AM station you could tune into through a small monophonic speaker. Yes, you would sometimes get your favorite song. It was better than nothing, but it wasn’t anything like it could be.
  Technology was primitive. It was limited.
  The ‘70s brought the boom box, but let’s talk about cumbersome. Hauling around a suitcase-sized stereo proved, mostly, to be less fun that it was intended. And it became costly; all those big D cell batteries could eat up your allowance pretty quick.
  So the Walkman – itself not cheap at $150 – gave you freedom. Four double AA batteries could get you anywhere, or take you anywhere. Cassette tapes (now a thing of the past) allowed you to record music from vinyl (one album per side on a 90-minute tape), and away you went; running, cycling, walking, or studying. It was like adding a soundtrack to your life.
  Before that, it’s hard to imagine what commuters did on the bus or subway. Did they just talk?
  While Sony streamlined the original Walkman (later adding the Discman when compact discs became available), the technology was quickly knocked off and became the thing to have. Prices dropped to the point where personal cassette players were almost free with gas, and everybody seemed to have one.
  Headphones heighten the experience.
  The Walkman changed how we consume music. The Walkman inspired how we now listen, either through headphones or with the ear buds popularized with the iPod.
  In 40 years we’ve lived through a range of personal audio products to the point where we don’t think of it any longer as unique. It’s just something we do.
  We listen. It probably even sounds better now than it did then.

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