The papers at the moment seem to be full of stories sent in by freelance journalists as they dash to add their thoughts to the news that Sony are discontinuing the Walkman in Japan (though they will still market a version elsewhere, albeit made in China). As someone who never had or wanted one, I was surprised to learn that they even still existed. The nearest I got was a Sony TCM11; exactly the same size as a Walkman – but it recorded! It has done sterling service taping interviews for around 20 years, though sadly the recording capability seems to have been messed up by some baggage security device I had to go through to get on a boat a couple of months ago and I haven’t figured out where to turn to to see if this can be corrected.
If the Walkman existed as a generally smart piece of industrial design and functionality, the same couldn’t always be said of the hundreds of rival machines. Some of these cheap Walkman knock-offs have begun to hit the charity stores and in recent months I’ve picked three examples up, all manufactured for sale by Boots The Chemists. The bright coloured plastic of the two Bop Box models (they are different, see how many changes you can spot) is particularly garish (and exactly who were the fake screw heads were meant to impress?). I thought originally these models were aimed at kids but looking at them again, they were probably targeted at your disco jogging adult as well. It’s easy to imagine them covered with tinsel and given a starring role in those glossy catalogues Boots clog up their stores with each Christmas (not that I ever go into Boots any more. If I wanted to shop in a jumble sale, then it’s more fun to visit the local church hall).
The third example (below) is a slightly more discreet affair, but with a very eighties buzz word emblazoned across, just in case people missed seeing it strapped to your waistband (and didn’t you just love it when the Apple Mac finally freed typesetters to vary the individual leading and size of each letter?).
All three models incidentally carry a warning about damaging your hearing, the two Bop Boxes additionally boasting ‘volume restrictor’ technology, though quite how that worked I’ve no idea. Some might say that given the dross likely to have been played on most of these machines (and often inflicted on the rest of us) the listeners deserved to go deaf.
And if you think these are so bad they’re good, try looking for the models really aimed at kids. I’ll try and post a couple anon…