Pre-iPod, Sony's Walkman was the personal music player of the future. Now it's making a comeback -- with a little help from Android. Here are the new models, and a nostalgia-fueled look at the classics.
Walkman rocks with Android
Once the vanguard of mobile entertainment, the Sony Walkman is ready to make a comeback -- and Google is playing in the band, adding Android 4.0 to the new Walkman lineup.
Sony says the Android-powered music player will deliver a distortion-killing S-Master Digital Amplifier from Sony and a "richer, bolder, and louder presence." The E470 Series, seen here, has a 2-inch screen and is 7-millimeters thick.
Integrating the Sony Entertainment Network's cloud-based Music Unlimited Service, the new Walkman will give users access to more than 14 million songs. With a monthly subscription, Music Unlimited lets users transfer their music and ad-free radio channels to their Walkman to listen offline. The device supports drag-and-drop transfers of music, photos, videos, podcasts, and playlists from iTunes for Windows via Media Go software or Windows Media Player.
The E570 series Walkman also runs Android 4.0 and has a 2-inch QVGA LCD screen and will come in an 8GB model capable of holding 1,750 songs as well as a 16GB model with capacity for 3,650 songs. Pricing information is currently unavailable.
It's hard to imagine our lives without portable music--nowadays most of us can fit our entire music collection into an MP3 player the size of a deck of cards. But 30 years ago, as people hefted boom boxes off their shoulders, they ooohed and ahhhhed in fascination at a little machine called the Walkman.
Originally, portable cassette players were marketed for people who needed to record audio clips for their work, like journalists and businesspeople, but Sony's Walkman brought the idea of playing cassettes to the masses. Not only did many Walkmans have a cassette player, an AM/FM dial, and dual headphone jacks, they also had cool features like autoreverse, play, and record.
Commonly known as the Walkman II, this 1981 WM-2 model sold 1.5 million units, making it the best-selling cassette Walkman to date. Its design was considered much more modern and stylish than the TPS-L2. It first came out in metallic gray and later was sold in black and red.
Top 10 Billboard songs of 1981: 1. "Bette Davis Eyes," Kim Carnes 2. "Endless Love," Diana Ross and Lionel Richie 3. "Lady," Kenny Rogers 4. "(Just Like) Starting Over," John Lennon 5. "Jessie's Girl," Rick Springfield 6. "Celebration," Kool and The Gang 7. "Kiss On My List," Daryl Hall and John Oates 8. "I Love A Rainy Night," Eddie Rabbitt 9. "9 To 5," Dolly Parton 10. "Keep On Loving You," REO Speedwagon
The WM-4 came out in 1983 and was designed to be the budget version of earlier, more-expensive models. It was one of the loudest Walkmans because it used four AA batteries rather than the traditional two.
Top 10 Billboard songs of 1983: 1. "Every Breath You Take," The Police 2. "Billie Jean," Michael Jackson 3. (From "Flashdance...What a Feeling," Irene Cara 4. "Down Under," Men at Work 5. "Beat It," Michael Jackson 6. "Total Eclipse of the Heart," Bonnie Tyler 7. "Maneater," Daryl Hall and John Oates 8. "Baby Come to Me," Patti Austin and James Ingram 9. "Maniac," Michael Sembello 10. "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)," Eurythmics
The 1984 Sony WM-F10 Walkman was similar to an earlier model, the WM-10, but it had an FM stereo radio. Engineers worked hard to figure out how to mount the radio equipment into the small body of this Walkman. They ended up building it into the cassette door, successfully making this model only slightly larger than its predecessor.
Top 10 Billboard songs of 1984: 1. "When Doves Cry," Prince 2. "What's Love Got to Do with It," Tina Turner 3. "Say, Say, Say," Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson 4. "Footloose," Kenny Loggins 5. "Against All Odds" (Take a Look at Me Now), Phil Collins 6. "Jump," Van Halen 7. "Hello," Lionel Richie 8. "Owner of a Lonely Heart," Yes 9. "Ghostbusters," Ray Parker Jr. 10. "Karma Chameleon," Culture Club
Not only was this WM-55 Walkman from 1986 one of the first Walkmans to come with a hot pink exterior, it also had AM/FM radio. And, brace yourselves -- FM stereo.
Top 10 Billboard songs of 1986: 1. "That's What Friends Are For," Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight 2. "Say You, Say Me," Lionel Richie 3. "I Miss You," Klymaxx 4. "On My Own," Patti Labelle and Michael McDonald 5. "Broken Wings," Mr. Mister 6. "How Will I Know," Whitney Houston 7. "Party All The Time," Eddie Murphy 8. "Burning Heart," Survivor 9. "Kyrie," Mr. Mister 10. "Addicted to Love," Robert Palmer
Though this 1987 WM-36 Walkman was kind of a dud, it looked pretty cool with its metal door cover and five-band graphic equalizer to get your audio in check.
Top 10 Billboard songs of 1987: 1. "Walk Like an Egyptian," The Bangles 2. "Alone," Heart 3. "Shake You Down," Gregory Abbott 4. "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" (Who Loves Me), Whitney Houston 5. "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now," Starship 6. "C'est La Vie," Robbie Nevil 7. "Here I Go Again," Whitesnake 8. "The Way It Is," Bruce Hornsby and the Range 9. "Shakedown," Bob Seger 10. "Livin' on a Prayer," Bon Jovi
1988 is when Walkmans got really sophisticated. The WM-AF64 had autoreverse, AM/FM built into the cassette door, metal tape compatibility, and Dolby B NR -- but it was the two different levels of "Mega Bass" that really wowed.
Top 10 Billboard songs of 1988: 1. "Faith," George Michael 2. "Need You Tonight," INXS 3. "Got My Mind Set on You," George Harrison 4. "Never Gonna Give You Up," Rick Astley 5. "Sweet Child O' Mine," Guns N' Roses 6. "So Emotional," Whitney Houston 7. "Heaven Is a Place on Earth," Belinda Carlisle 8. "Could've Been," Tiffany 9. "Hands to Heaven," Breathe 10. "Roll With It," Steve Winwood
Obviously, by 1995 the Mega Bass was coming in handy -- over half the Top 10 songs were either rap or R&B. The WM-FX413 Walkman had two settings of Mega Bass, along with continuous or once only autoreverse.
Top 10 Billboard songs of 1995: 1. "Gangsta's Paradise," Coolio 2. "Waterfalls," TLC 3. "Creep," TLC 4. "Kiss From a Rose," Seal 5. "On Bended Knee," Boyz II Men 6. "Another Night," Real McCoy 7. "Fantasy," Mariah Carey 8. "Take a Bow," Madonna 9. "Don't Take It Personal" (Just One of Dem Days), Monica 10. "This Is How We Do It," Montell Jordan
By 1997, Walkmans really were becoming much sleeker. The WM-EX652 was considered one of the best cassette Walkmans of that year, along with a whole slew of features, like logic controls, blank skip, track repeat, and automatic music search, it also had Mega bass and "Groove" to enhance the sound of Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" ballad.
Top 10 Billboard songs of 1997: 1. "Candle in the Wind," Elton John 2. "Foolish Games"/"You Were Meant For Me," Jewel 3. "I'll Be Missing You," Puff Daddy and Faith Evans 4. "Un-Break My Heart," Toni Braxton 5. "Can't Nobody Hold Me Down," Puff Daddy 6. "I Believe I Can Fly," R. Kelly 7. "Don't Let Go (Love)," En Vogue 8. "Return Of The Mack," Mark Morrison 9. "How Do I Live," LeAnn Rimes 10. "Wannabe," Spice Girls
Sony ruled portable cassette players throughout the 1980s and '90s, but with the onset of digital music and iPods, it lost its market hold. It still uses the name Walkman for its digital music players and continues to come out with different models with unique features.
Pictured here is Sony's newest touch-screen X-Series Walkman, complete with a wireless antenna for getting onto hot spots and free music with the Slacker app. This app lets you choose from genre- and decade-based stations in the Slacker rotation. So, for now, people can tune into 1980s hits and sing along with REO Speedwagon's "Keep On Loving You."