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The awkward teenager of portable audio?

June 29, 2009

As noted in Avrin’s earlier post today, this is the 30th anniversary of the release of the first portable cassette player, the iconic Walkman. We have come to look back fondly on the founding gadget of portable technology – not only did it pave the way for the mp3, but it got us used to carrying technology with us. No longer would we have to be shackled to our stereo if we wanted to hear some sweet tunes. We’re now at the point where we can get basically all of our mod-cons on the go, what with the computers we carry in our pockets, but the Walkman was the device that got us ready for the Game Boy, the cellphone, and portable video devices. It deserves to be lauded for all this, in the same way that we couldn’t have had The Dark Knight without the pioneering effects of Star Wars. But what of the Independence Day of portable media? 2009 is also the 25th anniversary of the Discman, but no-one seems quite as impressed. Perhaps it’s because CDs have become obsolete too recently – like an ex-girlfriend who we still think of too often, even though we’re now married – or, because for those of us who used them, we remember how damn annoying they really were.  More after the jump.

The first generations of the Discman were portable in the same way that your stereo was, except that they ran on hundreds of AA batteries, and cost only half as much as a stereo component version. They were about the size of four jewel cases stacked on top of each other, so they weren’t exactly compact, either. As they got smaller and cheaper, they still didn’t get much better. The last Discman I bought, in about 2000, was still difficult to jam in to my pocket, and I still needed to walk like I either had a dead leg, or holding the CD player horizontally in my hand, as they skipped more than a young girl hopscotching on speed. While most of us look back on our adolescent years as troubling and/or awkward, they were a necessary step in our development, and that’s exactly why I want to praise the lowly Discman. I never learned how to drive, so the Discman was how I got my music on the go for all of the 90s and 2000s, from my first Billy Joel album, until I unwisely invested all of my saved-up allowance into this MiniDisc player, and then an iPod the size of a brick and with the capacity of Johnny Mnemonic. Ignoring the Discman is like ignoring all of the mistakes we’ve learnt from in our lives, from trying to make it as a musician, learning to skateboard, and playing with POGs. We owe it to ourselves to not be so quick to forget.

you will be missed

you will be missed

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 7, 2009 5:33 pm

    Hmm. Is it true? 🙂

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