In 1979, which electronic device was first introduced with the name Stowaway in the UK and as Soundabout in the United States?
And the answer: the Sony Walkman.
Walkman is a series of portable media players manufactured by Sony, transitioning formats over the years from tape cassettes to CDs, Mini-Discs, and MP3s. Released in 1979, the original Walkman was a portable cassette player that changed listening habits around the world, by allowing people to listen to music on the move.
Though Apple Music and Spotify make it pretty darn easy to listen to music wherever we please, this was not always the case. The Sony Walkman revolutionized the music industry with a simple concept: accessible, playable files wherever you go. Interestingly, it was a love of opera that spurred this novel creation. When one of Sony’s co-founders wanted to listen to opera on long flights but realized the option was largely impossible, he took matters into his own hands. Although his prototype reportedly failed to get the job done for his next trans-Pacific flight, the seed of the Walkman was planted.
However, the Sony Walkman was not an instant success. Upon its release, Sony only sold approximately 3,000 units, which wasn’t enough to make up for the relatively low retail price. So, with a marketing strategy for the books, Sony began sending employees out into the streets armed with Walkmans and sharing the experience of listening with the public by handing them their headphones. Lucky for them, the strategy worked, and sales took off. High demand in Japan actually kept the devices from international market for an additional two months after release. Evidently, the world was ready to listen while they walked.
Learn more about the history and legacy of the Sony Walkman here.