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The Deacon's Bench

And now a moment of silence — literally — as a once-beloved icon of the ’80s is laid to rest:

Sony will stop selling its Walkman portable tape player in Japan, the land of that once-iconic device’s birth. That’s “weirdest” not in the sense of “I can’t believe Sony won’t make those things anymore,” but in terms of “I can’t believe Sony still sells those things.”

The company quietly announced the news Friday in Japan, where it had continued to sell a lineup of tape players after yanking them from the U.S. market. (The company will still sell tape players in some countries in Asia and the Middle East.) The announcement sparked a round of remembrances across the Web that add up to far more attention than the Walkman has seen in recent years–aside from the occasional ironic mention in the Onion.

But rewind 25 years (pretend you hear the whir of cassette tape spooling by as you read this), and it was another story. Those of us who grew up in the Reagan Decade know: By six years after its 1979 debut, the Walkman had become the iPod of its day. Much like Apple’s music player, Sony’s gadget was near-ubiquitous, got a little smaller over subsequent revisions, and had cheaper competitors that Weren’t Quite The Same Thing.

My first “walkman” may have been one of those off-brands; I don’t know for sure. I do remember that it was the first hand-held electronic device I owned. And that I managed to drop and scratch it within weeks–an experience I have since reenacted with numerous other gadgets.

The Walkman eventually begat its CD successor the Discman, and then ever-more-compact DAT and MiniDisc models. (Before you all scoff at how that format flopped in the U.S. after brief flashes of potential, recall that it was huge in Japan; on a 1998 visit to Tokyo, I was floored by the massive numbers of miniaturized MD Walkmen for sale in Akihabara’s electronics markets.) There have even been video Walkman players, notwithstanding the difficulty of walking while watching video.

RIP.

You can read more here.

And enjoy the flashback, below:

   

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