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RETRO TECH: WALKMAN


– Hi. Marques.
– Hey, I’m Ryan.
Nice to meet you. – Good to meet you, Ryan.
– Thank you. Good to see you.
So in this box is a milestone piece of tech. I just want to have you open it
and give me your thoughts. – Ooh.
– ( laughs ) – I love these.
– It’s so cool-looking. This is definitely
older than me. I’ve never actually
seen one of these. You want to give it a spin? This is functioning?( synth rock playing )That’s extremely cool.I’m Marques Brownlee
and I review dope new tech.
But on this show,
I’m rewinding the clock
to discover
the tech of the past
that changed
our lives forever.
This is
“Retro Tech: Walkman.”
Hey, what’s up, guys?
MKBHD here. So, spoiler alert,
I’ve never used a Walkman. I’m very unfamiliar with it. and this will be literally my first time ever seeing it. The first ever
portable music player, Sony introduced
the TPS-L2 Walkman in 1979 and changed
the music game forever. I wasn’t alive back then. In fact,
half of people alive now were not alive when
the Walkman was introduced. Also, this pink text
is not an accident. It’s everywhere. So let’s go ahead
and get one out the box. Paperwork– this has never
gone out of style. Whoa.
These are the headphones. Flimsy. Very lightweight. That just leaves
the Walkman itself. In a leather case– this is like
a little pocketbook. Oh, my gosh. It’s pretty chunky. AA batteries. Tactile buttons. So that’s your fast-forward,
your rewind. Play/pause. Stop. Immensely satisfying.
You don’t get that today. So there’s only
one more thing to do, and that is
listen to some music. Beastie Boys. Oh, I have to struggle
with everything, don’t I? Nope. I just want to play my tape. Ah. This little bracket down here? Go ahead and slide it in
on that bracket.( music playing )Whew. Wow. These actually
don’t sound bad.( music continues )This year is the 40th
anniversary of the Walkman,
and I want to know
how this piece of tech
jumpstarted portable music
as we know it today.
( music stops )– Hey. Marques.
– Hey, Marques. Americus. – Good to meet you.
– Nice to meet you, too. – Wow.
– All right. So to start off,
I’m going to have you
check under your seat. – Like, right now?
– Go ahead. – Oh, no.
– Aah! This is pretty cool. Wow. This brings back memories. This guy! I have not seen
one of these things in I don’t even know
how long. Fits perfect, yeah. Wow. This is pretty dope, man. Can you take me
back to the ’70s and what the world
of the audio was like before the Walkman existed? Yeah,
the world of audio was fun because there was
a sort of preference for stuff getting bigger. You know,
you wanted music to be loud, you wanted it to be booming.( music playing )♪ Everybody ♪Seth:
Before Walkmen, music was innately social, blaring into
the communal airwaves. People carried
around boom boxes. Boom boxes were the thing. The bigger it was,
the cooler you were. Man on TV:
The radio that’s about as big as the Empire State Building and as loud as World War II. They were big, and they were
cumbersome to carry around. It definitely
was not the type of device that would fit in your pocket,
or even in a backpack. So the heads of Sony
had an idea, and the idea was let’s see if we can make things
a bit more mobile, so suddenly smaller
becomes better. Lisa:
Portable cassette players definitely existed
before the Walkman, but they were very different. Some of them
were the size of VCRs and they had these big
chunky buttons. But they weren’t
for listening to music. They were for journalists
and secretaries. So the heads of Sony
had an idea. Can you walk me through
the origin story of the Walkman? Seth:
So the founder of Sony was a huge audiophile. He loved opera music. And he’s taking
this old cassette player that’s designed
for recording notes
as a journalist might and using that on the road
to listen to his opera music.( opera music playing )And he finds
this thing clunky. It’s totally impractical. There has to be a better way. Lisa:
Masaru Ibuka tasked his team to come up with a solution. Seth: So they start
stripping away components. They start stripping
away parts. All the gears and gadgetry
and equipment necessary to record
onto a tape? They get rid of that. And what they’re left with
is a small, sleek, portable device that does basically one thing, but does that one thing
really well. It lets you listen to music. Lisa: And in 1979,
the Walkman was born.( opera music ends )Marques:
I wanted to learn even more about the origin
of the Walkman, so I got in touch
with Toshio Asai, who was an engineer on
the original development team for the Walkman
at Sony in Tokyo. ( speaking Japanese ) ( speaking Japanese ) Marques:
The engineers at Sony
did such a good job building the Walkman
that consumers would keep them even if they broke. Nowadays, if our tech breaks,
we bring it in to be fixed. But back then, everyone was
apparently pretty handy. So I’ve invited
my friend Judner, AKA “UrAvgConsumer,”
to help me out. Between the two of us,
we have more than enough knowhow to get into this tech. – Thanks for joining me today.
– Thanks for having me, man. We’re both YouTube creators.
We’re both tech heads. We’re both born after
the Walkman came out. – This is heavy.
– Yeah. So, what do you know
about the Walkman? – I know they use tapes.
– Mm-hmm. But outside of that?
Not too much. Okay. So, we review
a lot of tech. When’s the last time
you actually had to go in and replace or fix something? I don’t think I ever have. I can’t think of any time I have actually
had to personally do it. So, one of the most common
problems with these Walkmen, the bands inside
that turn the tapes
and make them move…( music playing )…would sometimes
stretch or break.( music stops )So, with the right
instructions, can these Walkmen be fixed
by your average consumer? – Sounds good.
– I guess we’ll figure
that out pretty soon. All right,
let’s jump right in. Step one, remove
the first set of screws
from the side panel. – That’s simple enough.
– Keep these screws safe. All right,
I’ve got doors coming off, Oh! Look at the guts
of that thing. If I had to defuse a bomb
and it looked like this? We’re all gonna die. There are 20 gears in here
and a motor. That’s something
you don’t see in today’s tech. – Oh, there we go.
– That’s your band. This is completely snapped. As far as my appreciation
for old tech right now? I’m not sure
if this is making me appreciate it more or less. I think I’d appreciate the person
who could do this for me. True. This brings me
back to high school. There’s the second screw. Whew. There goes
the whole plate. I’m going to get it, though. Oh! There we go. So this is that big band.
It’s a little stretched out. ( light clatter ) That sounded like a screw. Oh, no. Anyone have a giant magnet?
I think I’m going to have to finish this
without that one screw, but I’m going to commandeer
some of this extra tape – so that the bracket stays.
– Oh, okay, MacGyver. – You know who MacGyver is?
– Yep. – Do you really?
– Nope. Uh-huh. So, replace the big band
with this new big band. This has got to go
right over the top here. Boom! First band done. Your board is
all over the place. Yeah, this is–
it’s like I’m dissecting
a frog here. – Oh, man.
– I did not follow
instructions. – Whoa.
– ( light clatter ) No! Was that a screw
you just dropped? This is a lot more steps
than I was imagining. Control panel back. All right,
I finally reached the point where I can test to see
if I’ve installed
the bands correctly and if that one screw
was optional. We’ll see.
It’s not completely
put back together, but if this works, it says a lot about
my progress so far,
I’m just saying. Let me jump in on this
to verify. Okay, please work.
Please work. – Play.
– ( high-pitched whine ) ( whine continues ) As you can see and hear, something about my band
isn’t quite right. Something’s–
my tape it bro– Oh, no. Oh, it’s jammed. It is completely
jammed up in there. You definitely
destroyed that tape. Whoa. Aww, that is
a heartbreaker. ( sighs )
I feel stumped. Dang. All right,
let’s talk about what
we learned here today. So, this is hard. – This is difficult.
– Very. I guess I just gained
a lot of respect for people who actually
successfully pulled that off. Trying to figure this out
with no knowledge prior? It’s impossible. I’m okay
being born in this era. Thank you, digital tech. Marques:
As much appreciation
as I now have for the Walkman
after trying to fix one, not everyone
appreciated the Walkman when it first came out. Seth: People were up in arms
over the Walkman. They just simply
thought it was unsafe. They thought if people
weren’t paying attention, they would get hit by cars. There was a lot of backlash. This one of the first times
that we saw technology allow you to close off
the world. Man on TV:
Is it the Me Generation
gone wild? A height of anti-social
behavior? There were all sorts
of anti-Walkman rules kind of popping up everywhere. The most prominent was in
Woodbridge, New Jersey, 1982. The town passes a law
that basically bans you from listening to Walkmen
while you’re crossing streets and doing a bunch
of other things. We are trying
to stop a tragedy before it happens
in Woodbridge. To this day, this Walkman ban
still stands in New Jersey. Having a Walkman
wasn’t immediately cool. This was a novel device. People would be staring at you
if you wore it. So what Sony wanted to do was to try
to turn those stares from bad stares
to good stares. So the ad campaigns,
the marketing campaign, it was all about featuring fun, hip, attractive-looking people
using Walkmen in public so that people would think it
was an acceptable thing to do. Announcer:
The tiny stereo cassette player
with truly incredible sound. Lisa: Sony’s early ads showed people dancing
out in the streets, and the tagline said, “There’s a revolution
in the streets.” Because it was
so new to people. People weren’t
used to the idea of bringing
their music around. They probably
didn’t even realize that they wanted to bring their music around
before the Walkman. It’s like carrying
your stereo with you,
you know? On your– on your head. Sony’s idea was we’re going to
put them in the hands of some of the top people
in the industry. Lisa:
You saw really prominent famous people wearing it. It was very similar to what
a lot of companies do today, except now it’s called
influence marketing, and it’s mostly done
on Instagram. And this worked.
Eventually, the Walkman became something
you wanted to show off. But one of the big problems with any piece
of portable gear is that you’re not social. You’re kind of isolated
from the world around you. So, what Sony did is they put his and hers
headphone jacks on it so that two people
could listen at once. So, suddenly,
this solo activity could be a couples’ activity. You could listen
to a song with your friend and share it with them. The Walkman also a had
a hot line button that when you press it, allowed you to speak to someone
else through the device and it lowered the music
a little bit, too. I left my Walkman
headphones at home, but I do have this pair
of 2018 headphones. We can do some hot line.
Let’s go ahead and hit play. – Okay.
( music playing )My ears. Oh, the mic’s up here.
Can you hear me? – Yeah! Yeah.
– Did it work? – This is weird.
– It lowered my volume
and yours. That’s kind of brilliant. ♪ What’s love got to do ♪ ♪ Got to do ♪ – It doesn’t totally mute it.
– Yeah. – It just lowers it.
– It lowers it. When headphones are new,
when Walkmen are new. people tend to talk
at a higher volume – when you have headphones on.
– Definitely. Before the Walkman,
stereo was, like, it was cool,
but it wasn’t this headphone, immersive experience. – Right.
– That’s what the Walkman did. That’s amazing. Lisa: Although the Walkman
gets a lot of the credit, the headphones
that Sony designed really played into
the Walkman’s success. Before the Walkman came out,
headphones were big and they weren’t really designed
to be carried around with you. The Sony Walkman
really changed that. With the small headphones
that the Walkman came with, they reduced
the weight by tenfold, making it much easier
to carry around
with you and wear. Alex: So, the Walkman
didn’t only revolutionize
portable audio, it revolutionized
the headphone market. Marques:
I love quality audio and I take my headphones
with me everywhere, so I want to experience
how headphone technology has evolved over the years. Before the Walkman,
headphones were big and clunky. So, Sony solved this problem
by making lightweight, breathable headphones that ushered in the age
of personal headphones
since then. So, we have some of the best
and worst of those with us, and we’re going to
give them a spin. You can’t hear exactly
what I’m hearing since they’re headphones, but we’ll give you
the same effect. So this is Dope Or Nope. Let’s get right into it. We’re going to take it back
to before the Walkman– the 1971 Professional
Electrostatic Model Float. These are huge. I don’t know what
this hole is for. Like, a ponytail hole?
Who knows? These are the only ones
we could find from pre-Walkman days. Wow. They don’t even
stay over my– Um, strong nope. Big clunky headphones. Moving up to the early 2000s, and it’s a neckband style. Right behind my neck
like that. Let’s listen.( music playing )These are actually
a little bit more bass heavy.( music playing )You can now be that guy
walking down the street. But the lack of adjustability
kind of kills it, so, nope. Headphones in general
have branched out in a bunch of
different purposes. Welcome to 1985. We have Sony’s AM/FM
radio headphones. Big antenna. I have at one point in my life seen someone wearing these, and it was a neighbor
mowing his lawn. So, a new era of portability, and dare I say,
truly wireless? Dope. We have on-ear headphones as a sort of expression
of personal style.( music playing )Oh, they sound horrible. Pretty sure this button
is going to light some stuff up. There it is. There could be a unicorn fan that really wants
headphones like this, and for that person
these are probably dope. But for me,
the foam is not very soft. The sound,
as I mentioned, trash. Despite the glory
of the unicorn horn, nope. The way we hear our music was forever changed
by the Walkman headphones, but how did that impact
the physical medium that contained
the music itself?♪ Keep on rock,
keep, keep on rock ♪
Lisa:
When the Walkman took off, the cassette tape
also took off. And three years after
the Walkman was released
in the United States, cassette tapes sales outsold
vinyls for the first time. Alex: The introduction
of the blank cassette tape kind of changed everything,
whether you were just grabbing music from your
personal collection or you were stealing it
from the radio. This was a way for you to create your own
music playlist. For the first time,
this gave people real control over what they were
listening to. It wasn’t just dictated by
whatever was sold in stores. The mixtape was a really big
part of growing up. It was a big part
of high school culture. Americus:
There was no such thing as sending your
Spotify list to your pals. You literally were, like,
trading off cassettes. “Hey, I made this
cool mixtape.” “Hey, let me give you mine.” If you had a crush,
you gave them a mixtape. And that was everything
you needed to say but were too scared to say. But the area where the Walkman had the biggest impact
was on exercise. Seth: Running, jogging,
aerobics, Jazzercise, all these things blowing up at the same time
as the Walkman. It’s like this
perfect marriage. Lisa: Sony clearly noticed
that people were using the Walkman for exercise,
so they launched a sport model in the 1980s. Americus:
That was actually kind of
genius to be able to say this is something that is
a natural product market fit, so let’s make something specific
called the Sports Walkman to be able to tap into that. Marques:
The Sony Sports Walkman
was a must-have, due to the rugged design
and durability, but how does it hold up in today’s portable
music standards? To find out, I’m going to
have to run a stress test and see how it functions. As some of you may know,
in addition to being
a tech reviewer, I’m also a professional
ultimate frisbee player. So I do listen to music while
working out all the time. This seemed like
a perfect opportunity to test the durability
of a Sports Walkman. To do that,
I brought some friends– the Gregory Brothers. Welcome. ♪ I’m a fun, I’m a fun,
I’m a fun guy ♪The Gregory Brothers
took the internet by storm
with their songified versionsof the news and viral videos.They’re savvy musicians,and they know how
to throw a frisbee.
♪ Don’t believe me,
just watch ♪ Thanks for being here.
You guys have also played
a little ultimate. – Yeah.
– It’s true. Not quite
at your level. What’s been your guys’
experience with the Walkman? I had the original Walkman. The Walkman, for me,
it conjures so many memories. That was my first
experience with headphones. What do you think
of this bright yellow? I like it.
If I’m holding it
and exercising, a car will not run over me. So, ideally we can test
wearability, playability, durability. Do they play without skipping or start to break
or pieces fall off? You’re in luck, because
we have written you a song. We tried to write
a pump up track and just dubbed it
onto a cassette, – and it’s called
“I’m On Fire.”
– All right. Marques:
We’ve recorded the audio
so you guys can hear
what I’m hearing
through my headphones.
Here we go.
I’m getting really
pumped by this song.( upbeat dance music
playing )
♪ I’m on fire ♪♪ I’m on fire ♪♪ I’m on fire ♪
– This is really heavy. I used to think working out
with an iPod touch on your arm
was huge and clunky. This one has a built-in clip. We’re going to have to get you
some more air time, I think, if we want to jostle
this thing enough. – Yeah.
♪ You see, I’m actually ♪♪ Currently,
engulfed in flames ♪
♪ I’m on fire ♪
– ( thud )( music speeds up )
♪ Fi-i-i-ire ♪
♪ I’m on fire ♪– ( thud )
( music slurring )The cassette would, like,
speed up a little for a second.High notes would get
extra high as I land.
( music slurring )
♪ I’m on fire-er-er ♪
♪ I’m on fire ♪♪ What I gotta do
to get some water? ♪
( music slurring )
♪ I’m on– ♪
– I lost my battery.
– Oh, it fell out? – The tape stayed in.
– Yeah. That’s really impressive. Sorry for the hold up. Music’s playing already. – All right, let’s go.
♪ I’m on fire ♪( shouts ) – Ooh, it was in.
– We’re gonna call it. –♪ I’m on fire ♪
– Good catch. The clamp force here
came undone too easily. Other than that,
it did pretty well. I feel like we proved the original use case
for the Sport Walkman. Running, jogging–
obviously performed great. Yeah, got to give
props to certain aspects
of the Walkman for holding up
better than I thought. Thank you, guys,
for helping me – test out the Walkman.
– Thanks for having us. The Gregory Brothers. So the Sports Walkman
actually held up pretty well, but it was just one example of Sony’s effort to appeal
to people’s unique interests. Lisa: They launched
different colors. They eventually launched a model
that also had AM and FM. Americus:
By giving consumers enough
variation in the product SKUs, that allowed them to say,
“I still feel like this product is personal to me even though everyone has one.” Marques:
Through the mid-1980s and into the early ’90s, the Walkman had firmly
established itself as a cultural icon,
often taking on starring roles in classic movies of the era. ♪ Leave it all up to me ♪ Marques: But by the time
Sony celebrated the Walkman’s
tenth anniversary, a new frontier of technology
was on the horizon. Lisa:
Technology always evolves, and the way we listen to music and get music always changes. Alex:
Once we got towards
the middle of the ’90s, the medium of a compact disc
was able to hold more. The sound was a lot more hi-fi. Lisa:
As CD players rose
in popularity, you kind of saw the appeal
of the Walkman start to fade. And what really marked
the end of the Walkman was, of course, the iPod in 2001. Now you can have
your entire music library
in your pocket, not just one or two cassettes
of your choosing. So, it was really
digital music that put the nail
in the coffin for the Walkman. Can you just give me
the legacy of the Walkman? Americus:
It’s the first time
that you saw music really stepping outside
of the background and into the forefront
as a very central means of self-expression
for consumers. The Walkman kind of
created this notion that technology can be
with you all the time. Today, we don’t leave
the house without our phones. We spend hundreds of dollars
on specialized headphones because we love them and want to
wear them all the time. The Walkman was so critical
in all of that. The Walkman is still seen
in pop culture today. I mean, think about
“Guardians Of The Galaxy,” which was a hugely popular movie
in the Marvel franchise. So, it definitely got
a little bit of a revival. Seth:
If you’re listening
to a Walkman, or nowadays an iPhone, while you’re
going about your day, it changes your relationship
with the world. It makes it much easier
to get through the day, whether you’re working a job
or working out. The Walkman allowed us
for the first time to be transported away. It changed everything about how music fits into our lives. Marques:
I’ve learned a lot from my time
with the original Walkman. The biggest takeaway for me is just how much
this thing paved the way for portable audio
as we know it today. From the gears inside,
to the bands, to the buttons– those amazing clicky buttons, they don’t make ’em
like they used to. So, thanks to
the Walkman, and thank you for watching. Catch you guys
in the next one. Peace.

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