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©Copyright 2015 Eric Wrobbel



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Early radio, circa 1920, could be heard only on headphones. That's Junior, Edna, and Pops listening in (above) while mom looks on wondering why this stupid family has radio but still no electric vacuum cleaner. What has this got to do with The Sony Walkman TPS-L2? Find out at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm The first Sony Walkman, the TPS-L2 in 1979. The most important personal music device since the transistor radio, the Walkman was also the device that made it common to wear headphones in public. From 'The Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm In the late '50s and 1960s, high fidelity enthusiasts were few, mostly male, older, and had component stereo set-ups on shelves rather than commercially manufactured 'hi-fi sets' in furniture cabinets. When headphone technology got good enough, hi-fi buffs found they could really get into the music with them. Shown are vintage ST-Pro models from Superex, out of Yonkers, New York. What has this got to do with The Sony Walkman? Find out at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm The first Sony Walkman, the TPS-L2 in 1979, was sold in this box known as the 'skate box.' A couple of earlier boxes were also used. See all at 'The Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm The Sony Soundabout. One of the boxes in which the first Sony Walkman, the TPS-L2, was sold when it was first released in 1979. From the complete 'Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm The VERY first Sony Walkman, the TPS-L2 in 1979, had headphone jacks labeled 'Guys & Dolls.' Sony quickly replaced this with a simple 'A' and 'B' designation. Many interesting things about the first Walkman are at 'The Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm In 1979, in the earliest days of the Sony Walkman, a 'walking feet' logo was designed with the phrase 'Walking Stereo with Hotline.' It was used on some early vinyl cases and, as a sticker, on even fewer early Walkmans before a permanent re-design eliminated the quirky lettering with the 'feet.' From 'The Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm In 1979, in the earliest days of the Sony Walkman, a 'walking feet' logo was designed with the phrase 'Walking Stereo with Hotline.' It was used on the early box you see here, on some early vinyl cases and, as a sticker, on even fewer early Walkmans before a permanent re-design eliminated the quirky lettering with the 'feet.' From 'The Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm The first Sony Walkman, the TPS-L2 in 1979. Side view. The most important personal music device since the transistor radio, the Walkman was also the device that made it common to wear headphones in public. From 'The Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm In 1979, in the earliest days of the Sony Walkman, a 'walking feet' logo was designed with the phrase 'Walking Stereo with Hotline.' It was used as a sticker on a very few early Walkmans and was printed on some vinyl cases before a permanent re-design eliminated the quirky lettering with the 'feet.' From 'The Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm The first Sony Walkman, the TPS-L2 in 1979, attracted a lot of imitators. This fake is the Kisho MC-101 from Hong Kong. It 'borrows' all of the Sony's key features including the Hot Line button. Collecting ripoffs, knockoffs, and clones like this one is an interesting hobby all its own. From 'The Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm The first Sony Walkman, the TPS-L2 in 1979, attracted a lot of imitators. This Windsor ST-1400 'Walking, Talking, HotLine Stereo' from Hong Kong, 1982, isn't even a cassette player, it's just a radio. This Windsor even rips off the Sony 'skate box' in a wonderfully pathetic imitation. Collecting ripoffs, knockoffs, and clones like this one is an interesting hobby all its own. From 'The Sony Walkman' at the web's largest private collection of antiques & collectibles: http://www.ericwrobbel.com/collections/sony-walkman.htm

With all the things I collect, why devote an entire page to one single device, the Sony Walkman?

Well, I’ll tell you. It’s all about the headphones.

Early radio, circa 1920, could be heard only on headphones. That’s Junior, Edna, and Pops listening in (above) while mom looks on wondering why this stupid family has radio but still no electric vacuum cleaner. Telegraph operators wore headphones. Later, disk jockeys and airplane pilots wore headphones. And in the 1960s when the technology got good enough, hi-fi buffs found they could really get into the music with headphones, like the old guy below.

OTHER THAN THAT, virtually no one used headphones. They were not in any sense of the word “mainstream.” Until the Sony Walkman in 1979.

Today, listening to audio with both ears covered— with headphones or earphones— is common. The TPS-L2 Sony Walkman is the device that made that common. It changed the way people “consume” music and other audio. For the first time, high fidelity was mobile. That change in listening habits has proven to be more than a fad as headset use remains common these several decades later. So you see, I think the Walkman is important.

And its all about the headphones.

The Walkman was, in todays parlance, a “disruptive technology;” even Sony was uncertain about the potential for its new product. Sony was even unsure of the name “Walkman,” issuing the TPS-L2 without a name at first (see photo below right). Without the Walkman name, early models say “STEREO” on the front in large letters. The use of this large “stereo” was not merely a placeholder for a brand name to come; never before had a portable music player this small been stereo and, as implied by the word, high fidelity. Sony was the first to realize that users of portable sound devices could care about fidelity.

Sony issued this unmarked player in the US as the “Soundabout” and in the UK as the “Stowaway.” Testing the Walkman name, a “walking feet” logo was designed with the phrase “Walking Stereo with Hotline.” It was used on some early vinyl cases and, as a sticker, on even fewer early Walkmans. Eventually a new, simpler logo was devised and the TPS-L2 model was branded Walkman internationally. Most were sold in this configuration as shown at the top of this page. And most were sold in the box above left, the “skate box.”

Headphone jacks on a few (very few) of the earliest TPS-L2 models were labeled “Guys & Dolls.”

Later ones are labeled simply “A” and “B.”

The importance of the lightweight MDR-3L2 headphones that came with the TPS-L2 Walkman cannot be overstated. Sony knew that if the Walkman was to be successful, it couldnt come with the bulky, heavy, headphones that were then the state of the art. Sonys new headphones were indeed high fidelity, yet weighed about 1/5 of typical headphones at the time. These headphones were key to the Walkman’s success, enabling the two main components of that success: mobility and the creation of personal space.

The first Walkman’s headphones are remembered by many as having orange earpads. Orange replacements were available to fit the Walkman, and some later Walkman models did come with orange pads, but the TPS-L2 is shown on original boxes, literature, and advertising with black pads so it is assumed all were originally black, notwithstanding the 2014 movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

Left: the unbranded Sony TPS-L2 with the early walking feet logo sticker applied. Right: TPS-L2 side view.

For more on the early Walkman, visit Personal Music Players where you can see its forerunner, the Sony TCM-600 “Pressman,” and also see what came next in personal music.

 

With the success of the Walkman came the imitators.

But of course. One of the more amusing “tributes” is the Windsor ST-1400 Walking, Talking, HotLine Stereo AM/FM radio (Hong Kong, 1982) shown at right. This Windsor even rips off the Sony skate box in a wonderfully pathetic imitation.

The Kisho MC-101 cassette player knockoff is from Hong Kong. Like the Windsor, it borrows Sony’s “Hot Line” button. For more on the interesting, subversive field of collecting ripoffs, knockoffs, and clones: go here.


About those giant headphones shown above: they are model ST-Pro from Superex, out of Yonkers, New York. In the late ’50s and 1960s, high fidelity enthusiasts were few, mostly male, older, and had component stereo set-ups on shelves rather than commercially manufactured “hi-fi sets” in furniture cabinets. Just so you know.