Sony retires cassette-tape Walkman

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LISA MULLINS: And now, a technology obit of sorts. Sony announced today it's going to stop selling the cassette-playing Walkman in Japan. It may come as a surprise that Sony was even still making the portable player. But when the Walkman appeared in 1979, it changed the way people listened to music. The World's Clark Boyd has this appreciation.

CLARK BOYD: 1983. That's the year I got my first Walkman. I remember being swayed by the commercials at the time.

FEMALE SPEAKER: I'm in the mood for some beats with my new Sony Stereo. It's hot, it's rocking, and the beats are inbearable. And this is how it goes.

BOYD: Now you're probably thinking, what was the first cassette I popped into my Walkman? Like I could ever forget that. British rockers Def Leppard, of course. Is that taking you back, too? Luke Peters is the editor for the technology magazine T3. He takes us back to 1979 and the birth of the Walkman.

LUKE PETERS: It was actually created for the co-founder of Sony, who wanted to be able to listen to operas during his plane trips between Japan and the United States. It was actually an internal project, but they obviously saw the marketing potential, launched it, and it became a worldwide success very quickly.

BOYD: To say the least. 220 million units have been sold over the past three decades. Martyn Ware bought one of the first models to come out in Britain.

MARTYN WARE: I was very keen on them. I thought they changed the way that we listened to music.

BOYD: Ware's one of the founding members of a band you might have heard on your Walkman, the Human League. In Britain, the Walkman was originally called The Stowaway. Ware remembers cutting a cassette-only album for a side project called "Music for Stowaways."

WARE: It was very much like we were writing a soundtrack for moving around a new world in three dimensions rather than having to be tied to your hi-fi at home.

BOYD: Gabor Kovacs hosts The Electrical Language Podcast. His show features all kinds of music in mp3 format. But he remembers getting his first cassette Walkman and commuting with it on the tube in London every day.

GABOR KOVACS: So, I'd have my Sony Walkman in my pocket. Fairly clunky thing, the size of a small paperback. Headphones on, not earbuds, headphones of course, and no doubt annoying all the other commuters crammed in close to me with that sort of rat-tat noise. Nowadays, of course, I have something a fraction of the size, an mp3 player, that contains months worth of listening.

BOYD: But don't bury the cassette Walkman just yet. Sony says it will continue to manufacture and sell them in quote, "places where demand is not zero." That includes the Middle East, other parts of Asia, and the United States. For the World, this is Clark Boyd.

MULLINS: Tell us about your first experience with a Walkman. We've started the conversation. It's at