The iPod—Cool, but It's No Walkman



Yeah, yeah, this article is a week old, but still a good piece on how revolutionary the iPod really is (answer: not that revolutionary yet). The author partly picks a bone with a new book on the iPod's import, The Perfect Thing, offering that the beauty of the iPod is ultimately in the earbud of the user, representing something entirely different to baby boomers than, say, teenagers.

"Most of the tectonic music-industry shifts that cultural commentators ascribe to the iPod—the rise of the single, the downfall of the album—can be more precisely pinned to the digitization of music."


The iPod seems like a revolution because there was a brief gap in the march of personal stereo products. As the sales of Walkmen and cassette tapes declined, Sony was ready and waiting with the Discman. But the early models were prone to skipping, and CDs were never as portable as cassettes. Also, you couldn't comfortably fit a Discman in your pocket. So, for a few years, there was dip in the number of people running around with headphones on. In 2006, more than 50 million iPods are in circulation, and the media love fest is in full bloom. Still, the iPod does not match the star quality of the Walkman in its heyday. To take one cultural field: The Walkman served as a plot device in Ghostbusters, Back to the Future, The Goonies, and (insert your movie here). The Walkman was also first—the original king. Before Sony introduced Model TPS-L2 in 1979, the only person experiencing personal music was a German visionary strolling through the woods with his "stereobelt."


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