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Happy birthday, Sony Walkman

Before there was iPod, there was the Sony Walkman.

The first blue-and-silver Walkman--TPS-L2--debuted 26 years ago in Japan today, harkening back to a time when Disco was king and personal computers were slowly creeping into people's homes.

The portable cassette player was created by Masaru Ibuka, Kozo Ohsone, and Sony founder Akio Morita. Last year, Sony paid several million euros to a German inventor who patented the idea in 1977.

Sony Walkman TPS-L
Credit: Sony Corp.

It was Morita that came up with the name Walkman, which spawned other Sony devices like the Pressman, Watchman, Scoopman, and Discman.

When the Walkman started shipping, there was no large-scale television advertising campaign, but thanks to various publicity stunts, buzz about the Walkman spread by word of mouth. The initial batch of 30,000 units sold out by the end of August.

Similar to Apple's viral advertising campaigns that have made the iPod such a phenomenon, Sony handed out its Walkman to various celebrities and asked them to try it. Magazine photographs of young pop stars listening to a Walkman certainly helped to popularize the product.