Walking a Long Walk With the Walkman

My history with portable music is a long one, predominantly since my generation saw the evolution of such a music player in the Walkman.

fisher-price-tape-recorder-2

When I was about 8, I got my first tape player. It was a brown Fisher-Price mono cassette player with big buttons and it came with its own cassette, encouraging you to “Record Your World of Sounds” on Side 2.  My sis and I would record skits on tape and make plop-plop jokes. Toilets flushing would also be a favourite. We’d kill ourselves laughing listening to that…oh man. But I digress…

Behold THE MAJESTY

Behold THE MAJESTY

I’d also use the Fisher-Price tape player to listen to music. One of the first cassettes I ever got was the Mini-Pops. Much to the chagrin of everyone in my household, including my sis who was three years older, I would listen to that cassette constantly. Unfortunately, the player had no headphones jack, so everyone got to listen to “Green Door,” “Stupid Cupid” and “Baggy Trousers” on repeat, through a tinny mono speaker.  Soon thereafter, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Lionel Richie’s “Can’t Slow Down” were given to me as gifts…along with my first real ghetto blaster. But, this method of listening to music could only sustain the peace in my household for so long. My sis and I would often fight for airtime. We had developed similar musical tastes as we got older, and we each had our own ghetto blasters we could listen to music with. But it was the advent of the personal portable cassette player that got me wanting one of those Yellow Walkmen that all the cool kids were getting.

Before I continue, “Walkman” is being used as any personal portable cassette player here. There were several companies in the 80s that were manufacturing these – Sanyo, Panasonic, and of course, Sony – but where I’m from, it was ALL Walkman.

In around 1984, my sis and I wanted a Sony Walkman for Christmas. The bright yellow portable device was something every school kid wanted, but that only the rich kids could afford. Luckily for us, we were a bit spoiled by my aunt, who had disposable income (no kids, no husband), but who was also reasonable with the finances. She bought us each a portable cassette player that year, but we didn’t get a Sony Walkman. Our first was a Sanyo Sportster AM/FM portable cassette player.

Sanyo Sportster

Let me tell you about the Sportster if you’ve never seen one; the thing was a BEAST! It took 4 AA batteries, and man, that thing ate batteries for breakfast! We were always running to the store searching for fresh Duracels! There was nothing fancy about this player – there were buttons for play, stop, rewind and fast forward…there was a radio. No auto-reverse.

Here’s something sexy: this Walkman came with its own removable protective vinyl sheath that had straps so you could transport your personal portable cassette player over-the-shoulder like a purse. This was so you could do sports with it, like jog. But why would you want to? The thing was so damn heavy…and hefty! I remember my sis and I would joke around with it by trying to fit it in our pants pockets, and our pants would sag down as we walked around. I remember wrecking a pair of pants doing this exact thing, and catching my Mom’s ire. That Walkman weighed a ton!

I wouldn’t say this player wasn’t without problems. The headphone jack constantly had a bad connection to my headphones, which often caused the music to only come out of one ear (admittedly, this could have had a lot to do with the earphones…that’s another blogpost!). The Sanyo Sportster remained in my life until Christmas 1988. It is unfathomable to me today that I lasted with it for at least four years, from road trips to Florida, to an exchange trip to France. Overall it wasn’t bad for a kid who just wanted to listen to her Duran Duran and INXS cassettes.

JVC CX-F7K

It was Christmas 1988 when I was able to retire my Sanyo Sportster and move up to something lighter with more features. I had a friend who had gotten a JVC portable cassette player, and that thing was funky – one battery, light touch controls, AUTO-REVERSE! And that thing was so small, you could fit it in your pocket. I wanted one the instant I saw one. So, I approached my aunt about this sensitive topic, and she complied. (She was / is so good to me. Really, I was very lucky. ox). We drove over to Bianco’s in New Sudbury and she bought me the JVC CX-57K portable cassette player as a gift. It was expensive to buy, but I got one, and I was SO HAPPY with it…for about a year right at the point when the warranty wore off…and it wound up being one of the most frustrating and expensive piece-of-shit electronics I ever owned.

For all intents, this player had EVERYTHING you could want. But, there were some flaws in its design. Using only one battery meant I was changing them them out frequently. If the battery was dying, you would know it. The player would ssssllooowww dowwwwn the pllllaaayyybaaaaakkk. At this point, I was listening to old skool New Order, so the warped and disturbing sound of the playback didn’t bother me as much, but more upbeat songs from bands like INXS was certainly noticed. If a cassette was wound too tightly, it would not play in the JVC, completely stopping its playback, which would then prompt the auto-reverse feature to kick in. Sooner or later, I could not play a single cassette all the way through without it getting caught in this quandary of flipping from side A to side B; That drove me crazy! It was returned to JVC three times to be fixed, never really fixing the problem. In all, repairs to the player cost $200 over 4 years. Sooner or later, the JVC player quit working altogether.

sony walkman wmfx

In 1992, my Step-Dad surprised me with a legit Sony Walkman that he got on the cheap from a sale at Bianco’s. This one, I have to say was my FAVOURITE portable cassette player EVER. It had all the elements of my JVC CX-57K, but it actually WORKED!! The Sony Walkman WM-FX50. Lightweight, the size of a cassette, auto-reverse, and only one battery. It also had Mega Bass technology. It was a sturdy little player that never screwed up. I could fit it in my pocket, exercise with it, even listen to the radio on the go. It was great…until Spring 1996 when I left it in a bathroom stall at University College at Western University. Five minutes after I realized what I had done, I returned to find it gone. I hope whoever got it enjoyed my Smiths mix. 😦

Sony_Sports_Walkman

My next Sony Walkman was acquired later in 1996, soon after I lost my favourite Walkman, and I believe this was a gift from my sister. Things came full-circle as I finally got the Sports Walkman I always wanted. It looked very similar to the ubiquitous bright yellow Walkman we are all familiar with, only this time, mine was dark green. I’ve been looking online for a picture of it, with little success, almost making me believe I dreamt it. The dark green is so the Walkman is the same colour as a turtle – my favourite animal, so I know green Walkmans existed. Anyway, it was a sturdy bugger – a little heftier than my past Walkman, but still got the job done. Sadly, it broke a few years later when my husband took it for a run on the treadmill; he dropped it and it hit the wall behind him shattering the device in a million pieces. Weather-proof, not shatter-proof!

Years pass, and my desire for cassette players waned in a large way. Pretty much any player I owned capable of playing cassettes broke. I had no ghetto blaster any more, and no Walkman. However, this has not been a problem for me, as I have moved on to CDs and MP3. My preferred device is an old iPod Touch that Apple abandoned a few years ago, but it still works. It’s lightweight, fits in my pocket, and it’s not like I have to carry anything else with me to listen to music. It’s pretty amazing how far these devices have come. Here I had this big heavy brick in the Sanyo Sportster that I used to listen to cassettes, and it was supposed to be the most portable player! Now I have an iTouch that weighs 88 grams.

CODA

Last Christmas, my father-in-law found an old Panasonic Walkman at  a rummage sale and gave it to me. It was in great condition, and still worked! I couldn’t believe how excited I was to have a Walkman back in my life! Amazing how this medium often caused me so much frustration – in the cassette itself, and the portable player I was using that would often break down. Although I only have about a dozen cassettes left from my old collection, it was still cool to pop an old tape into the Panasonic and listen to those old recordings my sis and I made over 30 years ago – toilet flushes and all. Even though I have moved on to a different platform, I still allow that wave of nostalgia wash over me from time to time…fresh batteries on stand-by.

20150508_210904

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24 comments

  1. I never had a Walkman, as strange as it seems. My first portable cassette player was a small, gray JC Penney cassette player/recorder. It was more like something you’d use to record your professor talking in class than a music playback device. Still, I quite loved it. I remember opening it up Christmas morning, 1982 and being thrilled. My parents even got me a sleeve of blank cassettes. I loved making little radio shows with it, or putting it in the kitchen on nights my parents were drinking and playing cards and secretly recording their drunken fights over Skipbo. The best was when the batteries were dying and it would play at half speed. That always cracked me up.

    My brother, that same Christmas got an actual, honest-to-God Sony Walkman. It was this amazing piece of equipment. It had auto-reverse, recording feature, two headphone jacks so we could play Uno in his room and both listen to Judas Priest, and it had a blue cover for it. It was all silver and chrome looking, like some futuristic box. I think I loved that thing as much as my brother did. By 1992 the time had passed for the cassette Walkman and I bought myself a Sony CD Walkman. Honestly, it wasn’t the same. You couldn’t jog or even briskly walk with it without it skipping. Never had that problem with the gold old cassette Walkman.

    Great post. Took me back to some simpler times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One of my edits for this story had me dedicate a paragraph to my Discman. I got one around 1994, and mine was so sensitive. “Don’t scratch your face or your Discman will lose its place!” I was so happy to get one though – CDs on the go – even though it really did suck! Everything you said about it mirrors what I wrote! After he broke my Walkman, my husband bought a CD player that had shock absorbers, so you could pound the pavement and listen to a CD without fear of skipping.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. We owned at least two of the same tape decks! That indestructible Fisher Price, and the yellow Sony. My yellow Sony fell and broke too. But that Fisher Price, my god did I have a good time with that. It was absolutely great for recording!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I would except, A) I’m not sure how to record cassette to MP3, and B) I might embarrass my mom because she is also on the recording yelling at us for recording the flushing toilets. LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Fair enough.

        I however do have a tape like this. A neighbor kid recorded her dad shitting while they were renting the cottage next door. They were friends of my sister’s. She gave me the tape. I haven’t played it in years but I’m sure that giant shit (which sounds like a dying goose) is intact.

        Sounds like a mission.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great article. It reminded me of mowing my parents lawn in the early 1990’s listening to CLASSIC QUEEN on my Walkman. I remember the massive excitement when I was upgraded to the Sony Discman–CD’s on the go!!! My highschool years were spent lugging around one of those fat CD wallets crammed with my must-have discs. Kids these days don’t even had iPods, they just use their phones…which makes me sad. They’re never know the joy of stocking up on batteries before a long car trip. Oh, well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I never had the joy for it, even then! I was looking forward to the future! Batteries were a bane! And back then, a pack of AAs were pricey!

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  4. AWESOME!! I much prefer this old school walkman retrospective to my MP3 player post! Waaay better!

    This is such a cool post. Are those the original units in that top pic, and you kept them? I prefer that to my MP3 player pic too! FISHER PRICE YES!

    Haha I remember it was the ‘cool’ kids getting the Sony Sports walkmans in our town, too. Oh those cool kids. I never saw a green one though. That must’ve been all kinds of awesome.

    Haha sounds like that Sportster WAS the workout!

    GAH what is it with things dying right after the warranty expires? HOW DO THEY KNOW?

    Also awesome: the music you were listening to wasn’t so adversely affected by the player slowing down. Oh New Order.

    Also: What is a Bianco’s? Some sort of department store in Sudsville?

    That’s a hot Panasonic one too, nice find!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah, computer manufacturers seem to know about their product warranties too!

      Bianco’s is the source for electronics in Sudz. They also used to have the curb on the movie rental market in Sudz before Blockbuster arrived. It’s Sudbury owned and operated. Tried and true. My Step-Dad knew the guys that worked there, and would get all his electronics from them.

      No, I don’t still have any of these things. I stole from the Goggles lol. The Panasonic is legitly mine, however.

      And…I’ve been working on this post for MONTHS!! I’d write a little…put it in draft…pick it up again…put it in draft….glad you liked it!

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      1. Man, I’ve heard of planned obselescence but some of this stuff is NUTS.

        Bianco’s sounds like my kind of place!

        Aws shucks, I was hoping you still had the carcasses, like my old MP3 players… come to think of it, why do I still have Weed King and Gordie? They don’t work. They should go.

        Months?WOW! I haven’t ever worked on anything for months! Not even weeks! My psts take about 20 minutes, the night before! 😉 As a reader of the fine Caught Me Gaming Blog, I for one welcome the time, care, and attention you bring to your posts!

        Isn’t it maddening, what we used to pay for those Walkmans? Crazy, when you think that this week I walked into my junk shop, got a blue Sony Sports model for about $3 and it works just fine. They had a Panasonic discman with 48 second anti-skip built in, also $3. Nuts!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yep, started the post in draft last year. It was only a kernel of an idea, so I put it as a title only. I started writing it around xmas. Glad you enjoyed!

          I’ll often start writing posts in advance, and post much later. I have about 13 in draft right now, but none are ready to post. Some posts come really easy, others take time to develop. I don’t think I have ever taken 20 minutes on a post. Preparing the pix alone takes about that long. (BTW this is not a critique on your posts – you write great entertaining posts! Added bonus is it took you little time to write them. That’s awesome! :))

          We were just at our local VV and they had camcorders for dirt! Handheld VHS mini sonys and JVCs – the same kind my Step-Dad bought 25 years ago for $$, for sale for $20. Amazing.

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          1. That kind of preparation boggles my mind. Hell, I did most of my homework the night before. This planning thing is so foreign.

            Aw shucks thanks. This isn’t fishing for compliments it’s truth – I always sense I’m flinging shit at the wall to see what’ll stick. After this long at it, you’d think I’d have it honed but nope! Seat o’ the pants, baby! Plenty of better bloggers in our circle and that’s no lie. But it’s the fun of it I like. But planning ahead? Haha no (see above).

            I don’t believe I’ve ever seen camcorders at our vv. Where were they? Under glass? In the electronics just loose? WEIRD! And yeah, those prices are nuts, if the units still work.

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            1. Each VV I’ve been to (and I’ve been to a lot of them) treats electronics differently. This one in Markham had them loose with the alarm clocks and irons.

              And yeah the prices for some things at VV are nuts. I went to buy a pair of yoga pants – the lady ran them through and they were $35!! Say what?! I said no thanks, and this place is outta their mind!

              Like

  5. Such a great post. Like you I had a couple of non-walkman walkmen (?) over the years before getting my paws on Sony Walkman ‘Mega Bass’. Same one you had there. Loved that thing. It rocked. All the features you could ever need!

    Liked by 1 person

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