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Audio

Happy birthday, Sony Walkman! (It's 36 years old today)

Sony's Walkman was the first high-quality "mobile" music player -- did you own one?

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Sony TPS-L2 Walkman (left), NW-ZX2 Walkman (right) Sony

It was 36 years ago today the original Sony Walkman was born and changed the way we listened to music on the go. The first-generation analog cassette Walkman was a phenomenon, and while it was pricey, everybody had to have one. Before Walkman, portable music was limited to AM/FM radios or large cassette players; the Walkman's compact size and high-quality sound forever altered the landscape.

Mobile, or "personal" audio started with the original Walkman, and in its wake created the still booming market for quality portable headphones. It's clear the original Walkman inspired the Apple iPod, and they both had a huge impact on the industry and fostered countless copycat designs.

I didn't own the first Walkman, but I did buy a high-end Walkman Pro WM-D6C cassette recorder, and taped live concerts and recorded interviews. It was a great machine, so great in fact the all-analog Walkman Pro remained in production for 20 years, until 2002!

My friend has fond memories of his first-generation Walkman. "It dramatically changed my work commute, and I used that Walkman right up until Sony's portable CD players came out," he said. "Starting with the Walkman, most of my music-listening time was with portable players."

In late 1984, Sony introduced the world's first portable CD player, the Discman D-50. It was just a little more than a year after Sony's first consumer digital audio product, the CDP-101 CD player started wooing LP buyers over to digital audio. The Walkman gravy train continued with Sony's MP3 players, and more recently, with high-res music players, like the inexpensive NWZ A17 and high-end NW-ZX2 , they both put the Walkman name back on the front lines again.

The Walkman in 2015 isn't just for rich audiophiles, you can start with the 4GB Walkman MP3 Player that handles up to 48 kHz/16-bit files.

If you have Walkman memories, share them in the comments below.