The press releases on this website are provided for historical reference purposes only.
Please note that certain information may have changed since the date of release.

July 1, 1999

Sony Celebrates Walkman® 20th Anniversary

    (Tokyo, Japan) - Sony Corporation today celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Walkman®. The first model, 'TPS-L2', was introduced on July 1st, 1979. For the past 20 years, the Walkman has created a new global culture of "enjoying music any where and any time". According to Sony's latest figures, cumulative worldwide shipments of the cassette tape Walkman are 186 million units, 46 million units for the CD Walkman, and 4.6 million units for the MD Walkman (as of the end of the fiscal year 1998).

    Before the Walkman was introduced, music could only be enjoyed through a stereo system at home or a car audio system. Sony Founder and Chief Advisor, the late Masaru Ibuka, who was then Sony Honorary Chairman, and Sony Founder and Honorary Chairman Akio Morita, then Sony Chairman, created the concept of the Walkman portable stereo as a means of enjoying personal music entertainment. The Walkman was created by eliminating the record function and a speaker from a conventional cassette tape recorder and instead equipping it with stereo circuits and a stereo headphone terminal.

    Market watchers, and even Sony employees, were skeptical about the profitability of this new product during its development. However the development team believed in the potential of the new market, and they launched the first model known as 'TPS-L2'. Two months after the launch of this product, the skepticism was completely wiped out, and the Walkman became extremely popular. In addition to promoting the concept of 'enjoying music any where and any time', Walkman was widely advertised by celebrities appeared in magazines with the product. The Walkman became a new culture icon - a social phenomenon - with enormous support from young users.

    Although the name 'Walkman' is now highly recognized throughout the world, there were some fundamental challenges in naming this new product. At the time of the initial introduction of the Walkman overseas, Sony sales companies abroad strongly opposed the Japanese-made English word 'Walkman'. The Walkman was initially launched as 'Soundabout' in the U.S., 'Stowaway' in England, and 'Freestyle' in Australia. However, the name 'Walkman' was eventually accepted overseas, as Walkman portable stereos became very popular in Japan and tourists visiting Japan from abroad started buying them as a souvenir. At this point, Mr. Morita decided to standardize the name of the product and officially announced that the name 'Walkman' would be used worldwide. In 1986, the word 'Walkman' appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary and officially became a new English word.

    Headphones are essential to the Walkman concept. While the development of a Walkman personal stereo was proceeding, another research team was coincidentally developing lightweight headphones. Compared to conventional headphones that weighed 300 to 400g, the new headphones weighed less than 50g. Mr. Ibuka was aware of the remarkably lightweight headphones and decided to combine them with the Walkman in March 1979. As a result, the first Walkman model 'TPS-L2' was launched with the headphones model 'MDR-3L2', weighing only 45g. Since then, the development of headphones have continued to evolve, including an inner-ear type model known as "N*U*D*E" in 1982, egg-shaped headphones "eggo" in 1992, a behind-the-neck Street Style headphones in 1997. To date, 472 million units of headphones have been shipped (as of the end of the fiscal year 1998, including those bundled with the Walkman personal stereos).

    The Walkman was originally introduced as a compact cassette tape player, but with the emergence of new music media, the Walkman has expanded its product lineup. It includes the Sony Discman* portable CD player 'D-50' in 1984, DAT Walkman 'TCD-D3' in 1990, and MiniDisc Walkman" 'MZ-1', 'MZ-2P' in 1992. Currently the development of "Memory Stick" Walkman compatible with the new chewing gum-sized IC recording media is in process.

    • *From the Japanese product line introduced between October 1997 and March 1998, the name "Discman" was changed to "CD Walkman" in order to be consistent with other personal audio devices. Electronic book players and portable DVD players continue to use the name "Discman".

    Over the years, the Sony Walkman has dramatically changed the way the world listens to music. The Walkman made music listening a personal experience, by providing people with the freedom to enjoy music regardless of place. Sony will continue to represent revolutionary portable audio products that carry forward the legacy of the first Walkman.

    Sony Corporation is a leading manufacturer of audio, video, communications and information technology products for the consumer and professional markets. Its music, pictures and computer entertainment operations make Sony one of the most comprehensive entertainment companies in the world. Sony recorded consolidated annual sales of over $56 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31, 1999.


    Year Representative Models Notes
    1979 First model"TPS-L2" (7/1) for 33,000 yen - 6/22: The press announcement at Yoyogi Park
    - It became extremely popular from autumn to the year-end, which kept it out of stock for a while.
    1980 - The Walkman, roller skate, digital watch became "the three new sacred treasures".
    - The late Maestro von Karajan used the Walkman habitually, which became quite topical.
    - Other companies began to commercialize the Walkman.
    1981 "WM-2" (greatly boosted up the popularity of the Walkman) The word, "Walkman" was added in the French dictionary "Petit Larousse".
    1983 "WM-20" (the 1st cassette tape size)
    1984 "Discman" "D-50" (greatly boosted up the popularity of the Discman) - Cumulative shipment: 10 million units in June
    1985 "WM-101" (the 1st model compatible with chewing gum-size batteries)
    1986 "WM-109" (the 1st model equipped with a remote control) - Cumulative shipment: 20 million units in June
    - The word "Walkman" was added in the "Oxford English Dictionary".
    1987 "WM-501" - Cumulative shipment: 30 million units in June
    - Permanently displayed in the Smithsonian Institution
    1988 "WM-505" (the 1st model with wireless headphones) - Cumulative shipment: 40 million units in July
    1989 - Cumulative shipment: 50 million units in June
    1990 "WM-805" (the 1st model with wireless remote control)
    DAT Walkman "TCD-D3"
    1992 MD Walkman "MZ-1" "MZ-2P"
    1993 - Cumulative shipement:100 million units in January
    1994 The 15th anniversary model "WM-EX1", "WM-EX1HG" (No.1 sales units ever for domestic model) - The bagasse paper (non-wood pulp and made of sugarcane) was used for the package (WM-EX511) for environmental protection.
    1996 "WM-EX5" (mirror faced "beautiful Walkman") - Cumulative shipment: 150 million units in April
    - Introduction of "Beans Walkman" brought public attention to the "casual" models.
    1997 - The name "Discman" was officially changed to "CD Walkman" (for the Japanese lineups launched between 97/10_98/3 only).
    1998 "WM-EX9" (constant playback for 100 hours)
    1999 20th anniversary models (4): "WM-WE01" (cassette tape),"D-E01" (CD), "MZ-E80" (MD), "MDR-EX70SL" (headphones) - Cumulative shipment: 186 million units as of the end of the fiscal year ended March 31, 1999.
    Page Top