Interestingly, Sony emulated the auto-resume feature in some Discman CD players, and later it became common in car CD players, but there was no way to maintain playback position after swapping players. Later, MP3 players maintained their own playback state, but getting tracks on or off the device's built-in or removable storage was with file-based interfaces that connected to computers.
This stateful cursor functionality is only returning these days with URLs to media-hosting sites that accept timecode parameters.
I did worry about it being a bit stalker-y, but it certainly helped my self confidence.
I'm reminded of a character called Randy in a book called Cryptonomicon:
> To translate it into UNIX system administration terms (Randy's fundamental metaphor for just about everything)
I had a smile of recognition reading that, just like I had a smile of recognition reading yours. Stateful indeed. You might even term it a continuation.
I think you're overthinking the whole thing, it's not really "on" a tape. It's the default operation of a tape, they didn't have to come up with the idea, it's a side effect of the medium. You need a motor to move the tape, no motor = no movement = the tape stays in its current position. To automatically rewind the tape you'd need some sort of mechanism under tension in it which would probably make it less reliable / more expensive.
Nowadays I have shared playlist for family and friends, and it lacks magic.
And now when I get back from work in the evening, I put on a cassette whilst making dinner. Or when I have friends over. And I let them pick the cassettes, which is always rather exciting.
I listen to a lot of metal and classical music, so finding original cassettes (even the really nice metal ones) isn't that hard at all. Plus they're cheap! (Waaay cheaper than vinyl).
And if all that weren't enough, there are bands still putting out cassettes: synthwave artists (Taurus 1984), indie bands (Tvivler), and even pop (Sigrid)! And if I don't find artists I like, I can always make my own ;)
tldr: If you miss it, you can still go out get yourself a cassette deck and enjoy it!
I find this part of your comment interesting because I have noticed such an overlap among a number of people versed in music. I wonder if there is a good way to explain this.
- complex structures (not necessarily always 4/4 or 3/4)
- variations in dynamic range (loud parts vs. quiet parts)
- storytelling / philosophical themes (the human condition, freedom, suffering, literature)
- intense "solos" (Mendelssohn insanely fast yet moving segments on the piano vs. Petrucci going crazy on the guitar)
- mastery of musical instruments (particularly true in progressive metal, but metal drummers, guitarists/bassists and keyboard players tend to play at a very high technical level)
- song length (like Seventh Wonder's "The Great Escape" at about 30 mins)
None of these individually are unique to either genre, but taken together, we can start seeing quite a bit of an overlap.
Not forgetting a good few borrowing from the folk canon, and I don't just mean late era Rainbow after Ritchie got his new girlfriend. :)
My daughter is going to a rock strings camp next week where she will be playing Metallica, Zepplin, etc on cello.
Have she listened to
The only real difference in a lot of cases is the choice of instrumentation.
The physicality of the medium is just one aspect - another source of magic was the lack of a skip button. Well, that and the fact that most people had fewer distractions back then and regarded listening to music as an actual activity, not merely background noice.
Your comment makes me nostalgic - few things feel as magical as carefully compiling and recording a mixtape for someone special and knowing, to a certain degree, that there's a good chance the gifted person actually takes the time to listen to it just as thoroughly. As a music lover and collector I still have the tape decks and, more importantly, the selection to create those tapes, but good luck finding anyone being able to play them.
On a sidenote: There's still a niche audience for tapes. If you spend time on Bandcamp you'll see quite a few labels and artists offering their release in good old tape format. There also this limited series inviting various DJs, selector and crate diggers to share their mixtape: https://www.alteredsoulexperiment.com/products
I worked at the college paper and a reporter let me listen to her tape. when listening back he kept getting higher and higher pitched. It finally occurred to me that when recording him batteries where getting lower and lower and the tape was recording slower. When played back at normal speeds.. it never got to “Alvin and the chipmunks” high pitch but.
You did have to remember which side you were listening to, though. So, the tape carried all the necessary information to maintain state, minus 1 bit. :-)
But back to Walkmans ... it was really eye-opening how multiple times per year they would release new variations in size and materials and features or just colours, and people would line up or pre-pay to get their hands on them. People who already had Walkmans, often. The brand loyalty was mostly deserved IMO, because Sony was really doing some original R&D.
Personal faves ... compact models in the drop & waterproof Sports line, especially when issued in non-yellow. The solar model was weird, and not super effective, but damn Sony was trying. The metal, and great-sounding Boodo Khan with supplied headphones was also pretty slick. But from a materials and engineering POV there were some gorgeous delicate little metal-body units and at least one was actually the same size as a plastic cassette case itself. (It would expand slightly when you inserted your media.)
Long after I left Sony I tried to keep the brand faith with MiniDiscs for years. But the MD's time has also come and gone...
Amazingly thin. As you pointed out you had to pull the device open so the cassette could fit inside. The battery seemed to take a lot of the internal space.
The main disadvantage was really slow fast forward/ rewind but you hardly did that with mix raves anyway.
This isn’t the same model but the photos give a good idea of the inside mechanism. These were complex mechanical systems.
Some bigger model internals:
It’s hard to resist thinking of iPhones when you talk about people lining up to buy the latest model, even when they already have a Walkman. It makes me daydream about Apple looking like Sony (a bit bloated, a bit of a faded giant) in 30 years.
The funny thing was that Best Buy had stashed it off in an aisle, and not next to the then-new plasma and LCD TVs in their showcase area. If they had, people would have seen that it had a better picture (sharper, deeper blacks) and cost a fifth as much.
In junior high that walkman was THE status symbol. Anybody who had one was was considered super cool. A buddy of mine started stealing them from Best Buy and started a small black market in our school.
Incidentally, I only discovered this recently after hearing the Apollo 11 astronauts use one to play a prank on mission control while on the way back to earth. You can hear this at the amazing https://apolloinrealtime.org/11/ (definitely works best on desktop not mobile)
To quote mittermayr from a recent thread :
> Don't throw away an idea because someone else has already made it. People completely underestimate the amount of money you can make as a runner-up, or even as a 5th or 10th-place service in some markets. Most of the products I'm involved with have made me quite substantial amounts over the years compared to the minimal time required to upkeep them. There's at least ten companies I can name at an instant that do almost exactly the same, yet I still make money doing the very same thing.
> Appreciate the invaluable advantage a market-proven idea brings and focus on whatever its target audience lacks or loves most about the most-popular offering. It doesn't mean you have to copy something (where's the fun in that), but consider this if you start working on something and then come across someone who's done the exact same thing with good success. Don't give up, use it.
With suddenly dozens of ways to enjoy portable audio, Sony was hurt by the fall of the MiniDisc. Less so in the world of CD players, but in the the world of digital audio players, they were just another poorly-differentiated manufacturer. Songs were decoupled from their original hardcopy and became files one could manage on a computer, and the UX of moving these tracks onto portable playback devices was starting to matter.
Actors like Real, Microsoft, Apple, MusicMatch, and NullSoft were in this space, and their interests didn't necessarily align with the interests of audio player makers. Apple initially partnered with MusicMatch when the iPod launched to have a file management story on Windows, before they shipped iTunes.
No. No I don’t. Who the fuck was still using a Walkman in 2001?
Freecom Beatman Mini CD MP3 Player ( https://www.semox.de/23-06-2008/verspateter-fruhjahrsputz-is..., scroll )
MP3 players in 2001 were either expensive or had tiny capacity, eg a single album, which was never enough.
Optical media really sucked hard for regular use. In retrospect, I'm surprised people put up with CDs and DVDs for so long.
On many occasions it was still easier, even in 2001, to dub a CD to a cassette than juggle the computer gear.
Also in the US at least, the majority of households had a PC by 2001. I came from a shit poor backwater by this sites standards. We had computers.
And by 2001, FTP sites? That was post peak of Napster (after Feb 2001). Kazaa, Emule, etc were all regulars options. You’re a few years off, which was substantial in the 95-2001 timeframe.
And I agree, walkman was not a major contender in 2001, I just mean it wasn't entirely gone from "normal user" perspective. But I stand by that iPod was the first solution which had as easy UX as a Walkman if you wanted your own playlist. As shitty as iTunes was and is, it was still the first really working music software anyone could use.
Among the gifts I received for my 9th birthday in 1986 were (1) An AM/FM radio Walkman (replete with the classic orange-padded on-ear headphones), and (2) a plastic kite with an eagle on it.
The following day, I walked over to the park nearest our house, stood in the middle of an open sports field, tuned my Walkman to the relatively new Australian rock music station EON-FM, and launched my eagle kite.
Fairly soon, as I stood there proudly flying my kite on what was a solidly windy day, the radio playlist transitioned into the intro to Money for Nothing by Dire Straits.
To this day, I can still feel the visceral sensation of the buildup of that intro and the sound explosion of that opening guitar riff, and in that moment I knew what rock'n'roll music was all about.
I sometimes think back to that just-turned-9-years-old kid in the middle of that field, flying that kite and having his mind blown by rock'n'roll blasted through his brand new Walkman, and think "you're doin OK kid."
For me it was:
1) Headphones — I was used to listening to music from speakers. Even familiar music was new sounding with headphones. I had listened through headphones before, but infrequently. The Walkman only had headphones — checkmate.
2) Walking around (rocking around) with my music. Sure, "transistor radios" had been around for decades, but this was a compact, stereo, cassette player.
…I'm reminded of Frank Black's "I Heard Ramona Sing" — a tribute to both the Ramones and the Walkman.
I find it amusing that we went from relatively small Walkman headphones, to tiny little Apple earbuds, to giant Beats headphones as the status symbol.
One thing I learned while looking into this now is that Music Cassettes (MC) have the magnetic recording tape, and then at both ends a "leader", which is much stronger than the thin magnetic tape, so it doesn't break when the end is reached. Furthermore, the leader is transparent, unlike the magnetic tape, and so auto reverse could be triggered by an optical sensor (this website claims that the WM 7 had an optical sensor - I thought Walkmen (Walkmans?) triggered auto reverse from the mechanical pull when the tape reached the end.)
EDIT to add: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cassette_tape#Tape_leaders
Hmmm.... Only later when they were marketing TV's?
Hated Sony for selling essentially the same TV with the same guts but leaving out one chip (for example) so that "Picture in Picture" required you spend an extra $500 on the high end model.
I always suspected it went something like this:
• Engineers describe the feature set they can deliver for a new TV.
• Bean counters determine it can be manufactured for $500.
• Marketing decide there will be three models: the F, the FX, and the FX+. Determine pricing will be: $800, $1200, $1800.
• Marketing aligns the FX+ model with the engineers feature set — cross off features to arrive at the FX — cross off even more to arrive at the F.
I shouldn't beat up on Sony though — all consumer electronics have been doing something like this since ... when ... the 1950's or so?
If they were selling the same exact product with same features at different prices, then maybe. But this is not the case.
This is just you being unhappy with the market clearing price for those features.
For a mass market good it’s not tactful to openly ask each customer how much they’re willing to pay and sell at that maximum price, so another way to get closer to achieving that is to differentiate products with features that have very low marginal costs.
Psychologically, it’s also part of “anchoring” where you establish the lowest value of the product with the lowest price version, so the middle and high prices don’t seem so bad.
And of course, who wants to buy the cheapest version of something? People generally feel better buying a better product, so the cheapest one might only exist to do that. Also a good strategy for wine in restaurants, sell the wine with the lowest supply cost at the middle price, because people will opt for the middle priced item over the lowest price.
If they weren’t selling an adequate number of FX TVs at the higher price... they would lower it. I guess they didn’t have to.
This has nothing to do with price discrimination either, which is when the same good or service is offered at different prices in different markets.
Then that evolving into whoever had good internet and a CD Burner. Eventually almost 'renting' music by returning a CD-RW with a new request list. Just how much Discmans would skip with Burnt CD's versus Legitimate ones.
To spending $500 on a 128mb MP3 player. Compressing Mp3's into tiny WMA's.
Later revisions added higher capacity and digital storage but it was too little too late.
Thinking back on it, its all that music sharing that really opened my eyes (ears!) to music that was outside the mainstream and would have been otherwise essentially locked away from the opportunity to listen to it long enough to really get it. Complex music.
Who I am today thanks the creators of that subversive technology of yesterday.
In regards to the rats nest of failed tape. A friend of mine and I took a few tapes apart in order to reverse the spools to listen to them backwards. I think we were only able to get one back together well enough to actually work... I remember putting some together which played forwards again because double reversal = forwards...
Haha me and my RIO PMP 300.. I did exactly that.. converted mp3s into 64kb wma files
(Took me a while to find out the model numbers by looking at image searches... Sony always had the worst product "names".)
Today electronics can be made smaller, thinner and so on, but this was a complex, intrinsically mechanical device. That's the amazing part. That player is like a well-made watch.
It was probably an off-shoot of their camcorder miniaturization efforts. Those got incredibly tiny considering they had to act like a VCR, helical head and all.
The sad thing is that as soon as Sony perfected the cassette player the CD was the popular medium and they had to do it all over again. When they perfected that MP3 showed up.
It's like how they made a perfect CRT and then flat panels hit hard.
footnote: do you remember when your batteries were running low and the cassette would start slowing down the music? ;)
I'll play Devil's Advocate here and say that the Walkman marked the beginning of the end for people having spatial awareness and social skills in public places.
You've only got to look at all the people meandering through our city streets today; ears plugged with headphones, faces glued to screens –often walking along with other people but yet completely detached from them, barely conscious of the world around them– to see what the Walkman's legacy is.
Personally I prefer to listen to my music on headphones when I'm alone and at a fixed location, rather than bimbling around, getting in other people's way and with my safety compromised by having my senses plugged up. I've actually seen cyclists riding in traffic with cycling helmets on [y'know, for the safety!] but also wearing headphones. Makes me cringe every time I pass one, knowing they've purposely cutting out the sounds of the traffic around them.
“Sheathed within the Walkman wearing the halo of distortion
Aural contraceptive aborting pregnant conversation”
Now that is a lyric, goddamn.
It's surprising to see how challenging the Walkman UI is to a complete novice.
I once tried to use a clickwheel iPod whilst my collleague was in a shop. I had to give up and revert to the car stereo for music.
The majority of UX enlightenment comes from demonstration.
At the time I enjoyed snowboarding at a local ski hill and I used my Walkman well into the life cycle of CDs making remixes of all my favorites tracks off CD's onto one cassette to listen to for the snowboarding session.
Best part, no skipping! (This was around 1997)
Some of the later Anti-Skip that was like 45-60 seconds would be doable, unless you are going over some moguls but for cruising without much hopping/tricks I'm sure some Anti-Skip in the 30s range would have sufficed.
No, the mono earpiece was a common thing with many transistor radios from the 60's. They didn't have stereo, no, so they didn't accomodate 2-ear pods or headphones.
I found a similar example in digital media only once so far, Pretty Lights Glowing in the Darkest Night. The first half of the EP sounds very distinct from the second, almost as if there is an invisible vinyl flip in the middle.
DVD-Audio was barely a thing ten or so years ago. After buying a B&W Zeppelin Air I was signed me up for their Society of Sound with very high quality 5Gb audio files for an album. My Zeppelin has since died. Is audio quality still improving binaural tracks?
The only time I’ve been really aware of audio quality was playing a Blu-Ray of an episode of Madmen.
On my breaks I would just sit there ripping the batteries out of the cameras for Walkman batteries for my friends and I. I accidentally touched the capacitor for the flash once when taking out the batteries. Only made that mistake once.
The only access to music I had was from a friend whose older brother copied a seemingly random collection for us to have. Vangelis, The Violent Femmes, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Warren Zevon. I think I listened to the same eight cassettes for most of the following year.
The resurrection of vinyl and the health of that market makes sense to me.
The death spiral of the CD worries me (my preferred format).
The fact that people are still buying cassettes mystifies me. Poor sound quality, low res art, serial access only, and quick degradation?
The compact cassette is small and rugged, tape players can be small enough that they are barely larger than a cassette tape, and most importantly it's trivially easy to record your own tapes, either as a mix tape from other sources, as a recording from radio or even with your friends in your small-time garage band. There is a damn good reason why the humble cassette tape stuck around in punk/DIY underground circles. For decades, recording to cassette tape and having them duplicated was the absolute cheapest way to get your music out to the world.
My own appreciation for cassette tape comes from growing up in the late 80s/early 90s. I didn't have a CD player of my own, but I had a cheap boombox with a tape deck, and a whole bunch of tapes from my parents. Classics like Deep Purple and the Beatles, but also a whole bunch of stuff they'd recorded from the radio, and various other random things, I had a whole bunch of children's books on tape, as well. My parents eventually gave me a tape deck with a built-in microphone and a bunch of blank tapes, and let my friends and me play around with it.
To me, the cassette tape (and the 3.5" floppy disk) was a cornerstone of my formative years, and I will always appreciate the versatility and possibilities the format has.
Vinyl is/was mostly a format for people with disposable income, it's the Big Serious format. In contrast, cassette tape was the format for the common people, you can play around with it and experiment.
As for the CD, it's just an obsolete physical format for digital audio, which is much easier to distribute online now, rather than stamping and shipping shiny plastic discs. There are quite a few distributers that offer CD-quality downloads.
I think that was the start of it, but at this point it's spread well beyond hipsters. One of my kids bought a turntable and they do the same thing I did when I listened to records 30 years ago - lie on the floor and examine the sleeve and liner.
Aside from the large format artwork, I wouldn't underestimate the appeal of building and having a collection. People collect vinyl toys to sit on a shelf. Is collecting records all that different?
> There are quite a few distributers that offer CD-quality downloads.
Not really and the ones that exist are expensive and have poor selection.
- Juno Download
I buy everything I like (and it's a lot) in a lossless, digital format and the only time I can't find a legal lossless purchase option is when it's actually a physical-only release.
Admittedly, and somewhat ironically, it's only the most popular mainstream music that seems to be lacking digital lossless purchasing options. Even mainstream music like the stuff that gets featured on Pitchfork seems to be widely available these days.
However when you mention CD prices, you're talking about new/mint offers from Amazon, right? Comparing second-hand prices wouldn't be fair. Since I was surprised about your discovery I just took a recent rather popular, mainstream and widely available album like Cate Le Bon's "Reward" to compare prices. CD was the worst offer at € 16,40:
- Amazon (CD): EUR 16,40
- Qobuz: EUR 15,99
- Boomkat: GBP 7,99
- Bandcamp: USD 9,99
Also, never buy the premium quality at Qobuz. Their standard quality already is lossless 16 Bit / 44,1 KHz (CD quality).
There are others who specialize in specific genres, especially within electronic music. And some labels have started offering CD quality downloads, Nuclear Blast is the one I'm most familiar with.
Sure, they win by quantity. But it doesn't matter if they have millions of artists if what I want is a particular Radiohead album.
For now, CD is still the best way to buy mainstream music in a high quality format. It also happens to be pretty inexpensive as well. On top of all that, I'm an old guy that happens to enjoy looking over my collection, picking a CD, and sitting down to listen to it for an hour, giving it the same attention I would if I were watching a movie or reading a book.
I also subscribe to a streaming service and that's how I find a lot of the stuff I want to buy.
I think of textful ads as having faded out in the 60s (just look at the long essays that were ads from the 40s or 20s!) but really: would you read an ad in a magazine with that wall of text?
Nostalgia... or genius?
I was at a campsite recently and the people in the tent next door had a playlist that was execrable. They weren't actually too loud and they adhered to the site's night-time noise cut-off rule, but their choice of music - massively different from mine - really degraded the pleasure of the camping experience that evening.
[Edit] Also, I am perhaps biased here because I am moderately deaf, and thus sensitized to noise pollution. Music makes it very hard to follow conversations, even with my hearing aids. This wasn't actually a problem at the campsite, but is a total conversation killer in enclosed spaces with hard surfaces (like many restaurants).
edit: while searching for that, I discovered that Kirk Thatcher is reprising the role in a cameo in the new Spider-man movie: https://www.startrek.com/article/trek-ivs-punk-on-bus-return...
Never got to own one though, just clones.
I replaced the belts, which got playback working again (see picture here https://twitter.com/chris_cannam/status/1043961675114840070) but ffwd/rwd appeared to be victims of a seized pivot which I couldn't get moving. So it plays beautifully once more, but still can't wind.
Might be worth checking that yours is still going ok, in case lack of use is a factor.
Few Examples :
Nokia missing the Android boat - thinking Symbian was great
Windows missing the Mobile operating system boat - thinking Windows Phone OS was great
Sony missing the iPod boat - thinking , hey we got Walkman , what else you need.
And the list goes on. A truly remarkable product always sees the end , if the visionaries are not ready to foresee whats next.
(What's ahead is not quite predictable. It might be VR, BCI or something entirely different from either.)
They always had competition from brands like Sharp, Pioneer, RCA, Magnavox, but I think the big hit came when the really cheap brands started to flood the market. Sony had the Discman come down to $99 for $349, but buyers were still going for the $39 units from Craig, Koss, Sanyo and such.
From having to carry around boxes of cassette tapes that now fit in a small 2mm chip, to the wireless headphones with individual Bluetooth pairing that can recognize speech, to the live streaming of not just songs but music videos while on a moving train, makes me wonder how far we've progressed in such little time.
...and thanks to the Bluetooth speaker that era is back. Can't tell you how often I'm hiking or running in the mountains and some group's dreadful taste in music precedes them by a half mile.
Sometimes I have the feeling we didn’t really move forwards in terms of interface design.
Both were essentially gimmicks and never really worked well, and were soon dropped.
> a "hotline" button which activated a small built-in microphone, partially overriding the sound from the cassette, and allowing one user to talk to the other over the music.
and as the other poster remarks
> When the follow-up model, "Walkman II" came out, the "hotline" button was phased out.
Was there ever an actual use case for this, or is it pure gimmick?
On planes it's simpler than pausing/removing the headphones to order a drink and the same in the office when you just need a quick yes/no from someone next to you.
There's also a passive mode I use when I'm actually outside with the headphones on. You don't hear engine noise or planes overhead but you can still hear tire noise of nearby cars so you don't get run over. If it's quiet you even hear footsteps.