Early Music Sharing


This month is the 25th anniversary of the Sony Walkman.

A midnight-blue-and-silver brick with astonishing sound debuted in July 1979. Called the Soundabout, Sony's TPS-L2 cassette player was an investment at $199.95.

It didn't record or come with a speaker. But it was sociable: Two could listen at once through a pair of headphone jacks, and an orange button called the Hotline let you talk over the music.

How did it let you talk over the music? Was there a microphone to put your voice through the headphones, or did it just lower the volume? Did anyone have one of these?

NEXT: Nano-Threat

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  1. There was a small microphone on the body of the player. When you pressed the hotline, there was a noticable lowering of the music volume and you can then hear yourself, your partner speaking, or any other ambient room noise.

  2. I had one – not one of the 1979 originals but an early 80s one that had that orange button. All it did was cut off the signal going to the headphone speakers so you could hear what someone was saying. Basically it was a giant orange mute button that was attached on the cord halfway between the plug and the earphones.

  3. And they were a welcome friggin relief from the ghetto blasters that preceded them.

    Uh, how can you tell that a guy from South Central has been shot in the head?

    There’s a hole in his radio.

    Thank the lord for the Walkman……

  4. July, 1979…. ha. I wasn’t even born yet.

    When’d the cd come out? late eighties?

  5. Wow, what an unfunny tasteless joke that was.

  6. Here’s a picture of the one I had.

  7. The Walkman arrived just in time to make my senior year in high school tolerable. “What’s that you say, teach?”

  8. Only the rich kids in my school had a Walkman. I had one of those ghastly colored 8-track players with the giant plunger for changing tracks. I can’t imagine why a format that split your favorite songs in half didn’t last.

  9. On Man, TWC, that really was tasteless.

    And that dumb joke is just like the name of the product. Everyone knows that the term “GHETTO BLASTER” and that stupid and unfunny joke present an incredibly inaccurate portrayal of those handy portable radios with the two position volume control (LOUD & EAR PIERCING). It also demeans the primary consumers of same, and stereotypes the places where they were likely to be seen and heard in the late 1970’s. WTF is the matter with you?

  10. TWC: No comment on the joke, but you’re right about how intolerable it was to hear some guy on the bus blasting disco while I was blasting my Zeppelin!

    It definitely did a lot in NYC for race relations!

  11. My family wasn’t rich enough to have one when they first came out either. I don’t know exactly where mine came from (either goodwill or a castoff from a rich uncle) but I got my early 80s one around 1986 or 87. I was also still shopping in what was left of the vinyl section at the Music Plus until about 1990.

    Having a walkman at school at all was verboten by the time I was old enough to have one. If a teacher saw you with one you never saw it again. Same went for pagers (only drug dealers use them you know).

    Seems like schools nowadays are more permissive with all the electronic gadgets. I recently saw an entire pack of 5th or 6th graders each talking on their own individual cell phones – scary.

  12. I bought one with my own money in 1986. It cost me eighty dollars and can be regarded as my first big consumer purchase. A few years later you could get a Walkman clone for less than the price of the tapes you wanted to play on it, which is a nice commentary about both the economics of the music business and free trade.

    Were Walkmans ever made in the US, or did those dastardly Chinese only take jobs away from patriotic, hardworking Japanese when they started churning out their cheap (but perfectly usable) imitations?

  13. Pepe, that picture is much like the one my older brother had. But his had a faux leather cover.

  14. “….while I was blasting my Zeppelin….”

    NativeNYer: now that’s a visual worth a good chuckle. 🙂

  15. My best friend had a ghetto blaster complete with motion sensor alarm! We used to love setting it up late at night on drinking weekends at the cottage, camping, etc. Sooner or later some schmuck would stagger by and half the county would wake up because of this thing. What an intro to your hangover . . .

  16. The Walkman drove from the field another marvel of late 20th Century tech – The Bone Fone!



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