Flashback Friday: TPS-L2 Walkman (1979)

by Gina 08/06/2010, in Flashback Friday

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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