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Hit rewind: Sony Walkman triggers nostalgia on 40th birthday

Must-have 80s gadget and one-time icon of Japan electronics cool, Sony’s Walkman turned 40 this year and like its now middle-aged fans, is clinging to its youth with high-tech updates.

On July 1, 1979, as the global economy suffered through the second oil shock, Sony unleashed on the world a dark-blue brick of a machine with chunky silver buttons, the Walkman TPS-L2.

Priced at a hefty 33,000 yen — S$433 in today’s money — the first-generation Walkman could not record but its stereo music playback function quickly captured hearts in Japan and then the world.

It had two headset jacks — labelled “guys” and “dolls” — to allow two people to listen simultaneously. A bright orange “hotline” button could be pressed to lower the volume while the couple chatted.

After a disappointing first month when only 3,000 units were sold, sales exploded to eventually hit 1.5 million worldwide for the first model. The second model, the WM-2, which came in red, black and silver, chalked up sales of 2.58 million.

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