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  • Hello. This is 6 Minute English from

  • BBC Learning English. I'm Neil.

  • And I'm Georgina.

  • Hello, Georgina. How are you today?

  • Georgina? Georgina!

  • Oh sorry, Neil, I didn't hear you - I was

  • listening to music on my headphones!

  • Ah, I see! Listening to music stored on

  • your mobile phone or iPod

  • when out on-the-move

  • doesn't seem like a big deal now, but the

  • concept of personal portable music didn't

  • exist until 1979, when the Japanese

  • electronics company, Sony,

  • launched the Walkman.

  • Years before iPods and MP3 downloads,

  • the Sony Walkman was the first

  • widely available

  • portable music player. It revolutionised

  • the way fans listened to

  • their favourite bands.

  • In this programme, we'll be taking

  • a nostalgic look back at the

  • 1980s and the birth of the

  • Sony Walkman.

  • And, of course, we'll be learning some

  • new vocabulary as well.

  • Now, it may not seem so revolutionary

  • to young people nowadays, but

  • back in the late 1970s

  • portable music players were unheard of.

  • The idea behind the Walkman was simple

  • - a high-quality stereo

  • cassette player, small

  • enough to hold in your hand, allowing you

  • to walk down the street listening to your

  • own soundtrack.

  • They became so popular that by

  • the time production of the Walkman

  • ended in 2010, Sony had sold

  • over 220 million machines worldwide.

  • So, my quiz question is this:

  • when the original Walkman

  • model first went on sale in 1979,

  • how much did it cost?

  • Was it: a) 50 dollars?, b) 100 dollars?,

  • or c) 150 dollars?

  • Things were a lot cheaper in 1979, Neil,

  • so I'll say b) 100 dollars.

  • OK, Georgina - we'll find out later if that's

  • right. Now, the inspiration

  • behind the Walkman

  • came from Sony chairman, Akio Morita.

  • He saw Japanese teenagers listening

  • to heavy transistor

  • radios carried on their shoulders and had

  • a vision of a smaller stereo

  • which could be

  • held in the hand.

  • However, few of Mr Morita's colleagues

  • had faith in his idea for a portable

  • music player.

  • Here's Andrea Koppen, of Sony UK,

  • speaking to the BBC in 1989, taken

  • from the BBC World

  • Service programme, Witness History.

  • People were very sceptical - they couldn't

  • believe that people would

  • want to walk around

  • with headphones on and sort of carry this

  • cassette with them - and he actually

  • laid his job on

  • the line and said, 'If it doesn't take off,

  • I will resign'... and they didn't have much

  • money at the time, so their advertising

  • was very tight- and they decided

  • to give it to

  • students to try... and so people saw them

  • on the trains, in campuses,

  • in towns and the

  • newspapers picked up on it immediately.

  • The Walkman was designed to be used

  • with headphones - a pair of padded

  • speakers worn over the

  • ears so you can listen to music

  • without other people hearing.

  • Akio Morita was confident his stereo plus

  • headphones idea would

  • take off - suddenly

  • start to be successful and popular.

  • In fact, he was so confident of success

  • that he laid his job on the line -

  • an idiom meaning

  • to risk losing something important,

  • such as your job or reputation.

  • Luckily, he didn't lose his job because

  • many people started buying the

  • new Walkmans, something

  • the newspapers picked up on - noticed

  • or gave particular attention to.

  • Morita's idea was a massive success.

  • Released at the start of the

  • summer holidays for Japanese

  • students, within 3 months the entire

  • first run of 30 thousand Walkmans

  • had sold out.

  • Meanwhile, music lovers outside of

  • Japan were desperately trying

  • to get hold of the new

  • machines. Among the first to buy one

  • was music journalist, Tim Jarman.

  • Here he is speaking to Farhana Haider, for

  • BBC World Service's Witness History:

  • It was made available in the US in June

  • 1980. The Walkman was

  • especially popular with the

  • 16 to 24 age group.

  • They thought it could be a niche product,

  • that might not sell, but it really caught

  • the public's imagination in every market

  • that it was offered in.

  • When the Walkman was sold to the rest

  • of the world and became

  • popular with youngsters,

  • people thought it was a niche product -

  • something marketed for sale

  • to a small, specific group.

  • But instead, people of all ages began

  • wearing Walkmans to listen to

  • their favourite music

  • on the move, and the new invention

  • caught the public imagination -

  • an idiom meaning,

  • made the public interested in

  • or excited about something.

  • Many put the Walkman's success down

  • to its perfect combination

  • of sound quality, small

  • size and affordable price.

  • But exactly how affordable, Georgina?

  • Remember my quiz question?

  • Yes, Neil. You asked how much the

  • original Walkman cost when it

  • came out in 1979.

  • What did you say?

  • I thought it cost b) 100 dollars

  • Well, Georgina, things were cheaper in

  • 1979, but not that cheap - the

  • actual price was

  • c) 150 dollars.

  • That's around 530 dollars today!

  • In this programme, we've been looking

  • back at the iconic Sony Walkman,

  • the first portable

  • stereo made up of a cassette player plus

  • headphones - pairs of padded

  • speakers worn over the ears.

  • Sony chairman Akio Morita was so

  • confident his invention would

  • take off - become popular

  • and successful - that he laid his job

  • on the line. That means

  • risked something important,

  • like his job.

  • His colleagues at Sony worried the

  • Walkman was a niche product -

  • a product targeted for

  • sale to a niche, or small and

  • specific, market.

  • But luckily for him, the Japanese

  • newspapers picked up on his idea -

  • noticed it and gave

  • it particular attention. As a result,

  • the Sony Walkman caught

  • the public imagination

  • - made the public excited

  • and interesting in it.

  • That's all for this programme.

  • Until we meet again at 6 Minute

  • English - happy listening!

  • Happy listening!

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Walkman: The music player revolution - 6 Minute English

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/10/29
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