Time to retire those tapes, After retiring the floppy disk in March, Sony has halted the manufacture and distribution of another now-obsolete technology: the cassette Walkman, the first low-cost, portable music player. The company made its last shipment of the cassette Walkmans to the Japanese market earlier this year — and when they’re gone from stores, they’ll be finished. Sony is outsourcing some manufacturing to a Chinese company for sales to people who still use obsolete cassette tapes.
The first generation Walkman (which was called the Soundabout in the U.S., and the Stowaway in the UK) was released on July 1, 1979 in Japan. Although it later became a huge success, it only sold 3,000 units in its first month. Sony managed to sell some 200 million iterations of the cassette Walkman over the product line’s 30-year career.
Before the Walkman, record players were the de facto choice for music players. But the Walkman was supplanted by portable CD players, which were replaced by MP3 players. Coincidentally, Sunday is also the iPod’s ninth birthday, another iconic music player.
Sony still uses the Walkman name for other devices. In August it launched the Walkman NWZ-E350 series video MP3 players. These are budget devices; a 4GB model sells for $70 and an 8GB player is $80. Sony has also capitalized on the Walkman brand, offering Walkman phones. Sony has said that it will continue to produce CD and mini-disc players, despite their decreased popularity.
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