Gadget Flashback: 1983 Sony Walkman

Screenshot 1983 Sony Walkman from commercial

Watching this Sony Walkman commercial from 1983 gives us a glimpse of the most popular and influential gadgets from the 80s. Forty years ago we lived in the analog age. Things we take for granted today just weren’t possible, though that didn’t stop some brilliant innovations that gave us beloved devices like the Walkman.

Before the Walkman, we did have portable music, but that involved transistor radios. It’s hard for young people now to appreciate just how important the radio was back then. That’s how you got most of your music, and certainly your portable music.

But of course you had little control over what you heard, beyond selecting your favorite radio station. The Walkman changed all that, as suddenly you could create your favorite mix tape (we call them playlists now) and listen wherever you wanted with your Walkman.

How was the Sony Walkman invented?

The Sony Walkman, the world’s first personal stereo, was born in 1979 thanks to the creativity of one man: Akio Morita. He was inspired by a simple idea—to make it easier for people to listen to music wherever they went.

Morita took existing technology and put it in a small, portable case about the size of a pocketbook. It included two headphone jacks so that you could share your jams with your friends! The original Walkman even had an option to record from the radio or cassette deck on cassettes that were specially designed for it. You can see in the commercial above that by 1983 the Walkman was shrunk to the size of a cassette case.

It wasn’t long before everyone wanted their own “personal soundtrack” and soon enough, thousands of people around the world were walking around with their own mini stereo systems. The Sony Walkman became an instant classic, and it forever changed the way we listen to music.

Cultural Impact

When the Sony Walkman debuted in 1979, it changed the way people listened to music. No longer were listeners chained to bulky radios or record players – they could now experience their favorite tunes on the go. This miniature device revolutionized the portable stereo industry, and sparked a cultural phenomenon that quickly spread beyond Japan into other parts of the world. With its groundbreaking design and sound quality, the Walkman made it easier than ever before to bring music with you everywhere you went. In fact, its impact was so great that it even inspired a new verb: “walkmenning,” which means playing music while walking around with headphones.

The Walkman also had an influence on style and fashion trends of the time. For many young people, it became a status symbol and went hand-in-hand with their own personal music collections. Many were obsessed with making mix tapes back then, and the Walkman made them even more essential.

It was cool to be seen walking around with the latest version of the Walkman, wearing both headphones and stylish clothing. The iconic device also made its mark in films such as “Risky Business,” “Say Anything,” and “Back To The Future.”


Fast forward 40 years and we now have access to practically all the music in the world through services like Spotify. But looking back, we can see how some analog innovation gave consumers the gift of portable music.


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