Once upon a time in a land not so faraway, there lived humans bleakly exposed to the complexities and possibilities of technology. In their happy state of mind, they were convinced that all that was needed for survival was the staple roti, kapda aur makaan, and basic activities for their leisure time. I'm referring to the time when mornings used to start with your grandfather's transistor being on full blast with news updates and days that used to end with the entire family being glued to their TV sets during dinner time, with Doordarshan on.
Life was simple and so was technology. But what we were unaware of, was the possibility of leading a simpler life with better technology. And if there was one gadget that gave us the taste of life-gone-simple with technology, it was The Walkman.
I remember the first time I was handed over a Walkman. It felt like God himself came down to planet Earth and designed this device to make the lives of us lesser humans, easier and funkier.
It felt like I could carry the world in my cargo pant's pockets (considering that it was too big to fit in the denim pockets) or have it hanging on my pant's belt loops. A whole world of endless music unfolded in front of us, which obviously needed a box full of audio cassettes and the frequent change of the tape from side A to side B. The Walkman became my inseparable best friend. The friend I could show off to the world with pride, the friend whose company didn't bother my parents and the friend I loved more than I ever loved myself.
On this day in 1979, the Walkman was revealed in front of the whole world by the Sony Corporation in Japan.
With two headphone docks, weighing 14 ounces, the first ever portable music player was out in the market and before they would know, 3000 units of the hi-tech gadget were sold within the first month itself. What looked like a walkie-talkie, the Walkman introduced to us a whole new concept when it came to listening to music. We could walk and run and dance and twist with the Walkman hanging from our belt and the big, foam-coated headphones placed over our heads.
This was the time when music had a physical form, audio cassettes had a long-lasting love affair with pens and pencil cells were bought in bulk. While teen lovers were making mixtapes with romantic songs for each other in the West, us Indian kids from the '90s would rush to the nearest cassette shops and get the latest Bollywood tracks recorded in blank tapes. That's how we made our playlists back then. We paid for music, put in the effort of dropping and picking up the tape from the shop and above all, penning down a list of our most favorite tracks, unlike listening to ready made playlists available on YouTube or SoundCloud.
We would carefully keep these tapes like they were made of gold.
To be honest, it was gold. The excitement of getting a new tape and listening to it on your Walkman over and over again till your mom took it away because you would just not stop humming the songs, even during homework time is still afresh. Remember the first time you sneaked in your Walkman to school and ended up being hailed as the star of the class? Unless, of course, the teacher caught you and confiscated it.
Everything from the springy pop buttons to the trouble of rewinding an entire side of the tape, since doing that separately for a song wasn't a feature of the gadget back then, made the Walkman special. We could not have even imagined how technology would advance over these years. Slowly tapes went out of fashion and CDs took over. Just when we bought our Discmans, the MP3s and MP4s of the world flooded the markets. Little did their makers know that Steve Jobs was all set to take the world of portable music devices by a storm with the phenomenal iPod.
But ask any '90s kid or even their parents about a Walkman, and you can see them swell up with a flood of emotions and nostalgia. There will come out stories of fathers passing their Walkman to their kids and mothers grooving to the tunes of Lata Mangeshkar and Bruce Springsteen while cooking dinner. This was a gadget that got us closer to our parents, in stead of widening the generation gap. Even though, the Walkman was a bulky device, without any fancy features like today's music players, it taught us how to be patient with technology. Now that I think of it, we have grown to become impatient, given the frustration that takes over us every time we have to wait for a video to buffer.