According to Sony, “In 1979, an empire in personal portable entertainment was created with the ingenious foresight of Sony Founder and Chief Advisor, the late Masaru Ibuka, and Sony Founder and Honorary Chairman Akio Morita. It began with the invention of the first cassette Walkman TPS-L2 that forever changed the way consumers listen to music.”
The developers of the first Sony Walkman were Kozo Ohsone, general manager of the Sony Tape Recorder Business Division, and his staff, under the auspices and suggestions of Ibuka and Morita.
New Medium – Cassette Tape
In 1963, Philips Electronics designed a new sound recording medium – the cassette tape. Philips patented the new technology in 1965 and made it available free of charge to manufacturers all over the world. Sony and other companies began designing new compact and portable tape recorders and players to take advantage of the cassette tape’s smaller size.
Sony Pressman = Sony Walkman
In 1978, Masaru Ibuka requested that Kozo Ohsone, general manager of the Tape Recorder Business Division, begin work on a stereo version of the Pressman, the small, monaural tape recorder that Sony had launched in 1977.
Sony Founder Akio Morita’s Reaction to the Modified Pressman
“This is the product that will satisfy those young people who want to listen to music all day. They’ll take it everywhere with them, and they won’t care about record functions. If we put a playback-only headphone stereo like this on the market, it’ll be a hit.” – Akio Morita, February 1979, Sony Headquarters
Sony invented the compact and extremely lightweight H-AIR MDR3 headphones for their new cassette player. At that time, headphones weighed on average between 300 to 400 grams, the H-AIR headphones weighed just 50 grams with comparable sound quality. The name Walkman was a natural progression from Pressman.
Launch of the Sony Walkman
On June 22 1979, the Sony Walkman was launched in Tokyo. Journalists were treated to an unusal press conference. They were taken to Yoyogi (a major park in Tokyo) and given a Walkman to wear. According to Sony, “The journalists listened to an explanation of the Walkman in stereo, while Sony staff members carried out various demonstrations of the product. The tape the journalists were listening to asked them to look at certain demonstrations, including a young man and woman listening to a Walkman while riding on a tandem bicycle.”
By 1995, total production of Walkman units reached 150 million and over 300 different Walkman models have been produced to date.