This Day in History (1-Jul-1979) – Sony introduces ‘Walkman’

Before the Walkman was introduced, music could only be enjoyed through a stereo system at home or a car audio system. Sony Founder and Chief Advisor, the late Masaru Ibuka, who was then Sony Honorary Chairman, and Sony Founder and Honorary Chairman Akio Morita, then Sony Chairman, created the concept of the Walkman portable stereo as a means of enjoying personal music entertainment. The Walkman was created by eliminating the record function and a speaker from a conventional cassette tape recorder and instead equipping it with stereo circuits and a stereo headphone terminal.  The first Walkman model, ‘TPS-L2’, was introduced on July 1st, 1979. The Walkman created a new global culture of “enjoying music any where and any time”.

Market watchers, and even Sony employees, were skeptical about the profitability of this new product during its development. Two months after the launch of this product, the skepticism was completely wiped out, and the Walkman became extremely popular. In addition to promoting the concept of ‘enjoying music any where and any time’, Walkman was widely advertised by celebrities appeared in magazines with the product. The Walkman became a new culture icon – a social phenomenon – with enormous support from young users.

At the time of the initial introduction of the Walkman overseas, Sony sales companies abroad strongly opposed the Japanese-made English word ‘Walkman’. The Walkman was initially launched as ‘Soundabout’ in the U.S., ‘Stowaway’ in England, and ‘Freestyle’ in Australia. However, the name ‘Walkman’ was eventually accepted overseas, as Walkman portable stereos became very popular in Japan and tourists visiting Japan from abroad started buying them as a souvenir. At this point, Mr. Morita decided to standardize the name of the product and officially announced that the name ‘Walkman’ would be used worldwide. In 1986, the word ‘Walkman’ appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary and officially became a new English word.