I really don't know what got me thinking about this topic — music players in my lifetime. Maybe it was reading something about the thirtieth anniversary of the Walkman; maybe it was simply down to the odd shuffle that is always randomizing inside my head. I never know what thoughts and images are going to pop up on my invisible-to-others screen, and I really don't seem to have much control over the playlist. Maybe it was reading about the anniversary of the Walkman. Maybe not.
Yes, it is now just over thirty years since Sony introduced this little miracle. I don't think any of us would have or could have predicted where this technology would end up (and maybe we still can't). We didn't even have computers back then for goodness sakes (although we were getting close to the revolution). From the way things have worked (i.e. Sony's diminished market share), it's more than probable that Sony's vision wasn't exactly prescient either. For just as they and their Beta format lost the VCR wars, Sony also seems to have become a minor player in personal digital players. However, I don't think we need to feel to sorry for this particular corporate giant.
On the BBC site, there's an article about a present-day kid familiarizing himself with the original, cassette-playing Walkman. He found it large and cumbersome and frustratingly limited as it could only hold about twelve songs per side. In fact it took him a while to realize that there could be another twelve songs on the other side of the tape. He also found the lack of a shuffle function rather disappointing. For awhile he'd hit fast-forward in an attempt to simulate a shuffle — until he was told of the fragility of tapes. He reported other problems as well: such as background hissing of the tape, a really short battery life, and the pant-pulling-down mass of the object.
I did own a Walkman, you know, pretty much like the one shown to the left, but it was not thirty years ago. In fact it was less than ten, sometime in the early part of this decade. It was a mini disc player. I guess I was talked into buying it when mp3 players were pretty new. I went to the local Future Shop to inquire about these newfangled things, but the salesperson who was a former student of mine steered me to the mini disc player. Although he may have been correct at the time, and it certainly sounded good in my ear, it was still limited as to the number of songs it could hold at any one time. While it wasn't a puny twelve per disc as in the early cassette player, it certainly wasn't the many, many hundreds of the iPod either. When my daughter left on a trip across the globe a few years later, she took my mini disc player rather than her iPod. and I don't know what happened to it, and it doesn't matter because I had my own iPod by then.
But the bulky, cassette playing Walkamn did start something, didn't it? Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that portable iPod or iPod-like devices have become the de facto norm for music listening for the majority of us the majority of the time: perhaps not the majority of the ancient types who tend to click into this old blogger's site, but still ...
Alright then, as I indicated at the outset, I was going to get into my own personal memories a little or music playing devices beyond my Walkman, but the reader's patience must not be tested too severely, so I'll save the rest for another day.