Flashback Friday: TPS-L2 Walkman (1979)

by Gina 08/06/2010

1979: Jupiter’s rings were proudly displayed in images, trekkies finally got to see their world come to the big screen and the very first walkman, the TPS-L2 stepped out makings its mark on history.

Prior to the TPS-L2, audiophiles had the limited option of enjoying music through either a stereo system or in the car. In order to develop the walkman, Sony® engineers needed to remove the record function and a speaker from a traditional cassette tape recorder and replace that with stereo circuits and a headphone terminal.

At the same time, the Headphones team was working away on new light weight headphones. At the time, standard headphones often weighted 300 to 400g. The newly developed ones were less than 50g. In the upper echelon of brilliance (likely near the of paring peanut butter and jelly), Sony decided to combine the Walkman® personal cassette player with the headphones. As quick trivia fact, the first Walkman device technically launched as two models paired. The TPS-L2 with headphone model MDR-3L2.

It celebrated its debut in July 1979 for about $200.  Truthfully, many were skeptical if this portable audio thing would take off. The original idea for the name was “Sony Disco Jogger” because of the popular of jogging and disco. It sold initially as the “Soundabout” in the United States, The “Stowaway” in the U.K. and “Freestyle” in Sweden. Today that name would be popular because of its pure disco awesomeness.

Since then over 385 million Walkman devices have been sold and has been listed by PC World as one of the 50 greatest gadgets of the past 50 years. While you can no longer pop in one of your disco teen movie cassette soundtracks (which are never old), you can play digital music files, video files and even sport a Metal Gear Solid look. It’s definitely not your parent’s walkman anymore.

Now you might be asking, “The Walkman celebrated 30 last year – why cover it now?”. I’ll tell you why. People hit these large decade milestones: 30, 40, 50, 60. But then what? They make it through the year only to celebrate the “1” with no party, no hoopla. Nine more years have to go by before another grand celebration.  It’s that one or two people that actually remember to call in between. So Walkman. I say happy 31st Walkman.  It’s a good year. I promise.

So as you dust off your roller skates and prepare for a warm weather weekend, remember those vintage gadgets that paved the way. Say a little “Happy 31 my friend”. Why? Because everyone should be showered on their 31st, 41st and so on – that and well… it’s a Flashback Friday.

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  1. Anonymous wrote: August 6, 2010 8:39am

    This is how I met my wife some 30 years ago…she was on vacation in Los Angeles from her home country of Japan sitting around the pool on a hot August day at the apartment where I was living, I walked up to her because I noted she had something I’ve never seen before, the first generation Sony Walkman, being audiophile I couldn’t resist asking her where do you buy a Walkman ..she replied Japan….I listen to some J-Pop that she had on cassette and thought of my own rock & roll possibilities… Thank You Sony :)


    1. Gina wrote: August 6, 2010 11:09am

      RS, that is such a sweet story. I love that. Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  2. Sukhjit wrote: August 6, 2010 9:30am

    Gina! I didn’t know you listened to Disco! :)

    1. Gina wrote: August 6, 2010 11:08am

      Ha! It’s all about the “fancy disco ball”. :-)

  3. Anonymous wrote: September 9, 2010 3:56pm

    Gina, I don’t know where to turn to – I keep getting bounced around on this. Accessories for Sony NEX cameras have been out of for a long time (weeks). Can’t SonyStyle put an anticipated restocking date on the out of stock items? BTW, when is the Fisheye Conversion Lens for the NEX-5 be available?


  4. Anonymous wrote: December 24, 2010 11:49am

    I actually worked for Sony in 1979 (1972-1982)when the Japanese engineers walked in one day to a sales meeting at our offices in Long Island City, 47-47 Van Dam Street to be exact. Periodically they would present to us a new concept or product….remember, we were so busy taking orders on Trinitron Color tvs that when they walked in this day with what they characterized as a “new” sound, the resident sales cynics, of which I was one, quickly dismissed their comments, glanced at my watch and hoped the meeting would end in the next 15 minutes. When the TPSL2, pink sheet (dealer) of $129.95, made its way finally to me, I placed the headphones on my head and hit Play. Nothing needed to be said, they had done it again ! The sound was like nothing I had ever heard before and the rest is history. I remember the days fondly.

  5. Anonymous wrote: December 24, 2010 12:01pm

    I actually worked for Sony, then Sony Corp of America, in 1979 when this product was introduced to us at a sales meeting at the then sales office at 47-47 Van Dam Street in Long Island City. Yes, that’s where it all began for the marketing & sales teams for this company in the US. Periodically we would have Japanese engineers stop into our sales meetings with new products / innovations. On this day it was the TPSL2, blue and silver in color, with a pink, dealer, sheet of $129.95 and a master pack of 4. As each salesman took their turn listening to this new product I was more busy glancing at my watch, hoping and praying that the meeting would end in no more than 15 minutes. After all, I had 12″ Trinitron color tv backorders that never ended and return phone calls to my dealer territory to explain to them how few color tvs I would be able to ship them for the month based on the “allocation” I had received. You see, the demand for Trinitron color tvs was so strong we could never fill all the backorders….KV-1201, KV-1212, etc. In my restlessness of marking off which account I had to call first, I occasionally would look up to see how close I was to playing with this new product and noticed the looks of amazement from my counterparts. When I finally got it in my hands, placed the headphones on and hit play, I too was amazed. It was the clearest music I had ever heard. Very fond memories. Very amazing product.


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