Remembering the Debut of the Walkman

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Apple Computer announced Monday that it has now sold 100 million iPods. To mark this milestone, we dipped into the archives to present a story that aired 26 years ago, shortly after the introduction of another revolutionary music player: Sony's Walkman.


We're back with DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.


And I'm Alex Cohen.

Apple Computer just announced that it has sold 100 million iPods. These tiny digital music players have revolutionized the way we listen to music. But a generation ago, Sony introduced a music player that also sparked a revolution. You might remember the first so-called personal listening device: the Walkman.

CHADWICK: Way back in 1981, a then-young producer, Steve Profitt, and some of his colleagues at NPR explored the phenomenon in a musical piece called "I am Your Walkman." And we present it again today under the heading: "The More Things Change, The More They Stay the Same."

(Soundbite of song, "I am Your Walkman")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) You walk a lonely street, wanting someone there beside you. You seek a world complete. I can become the sound inside you. Become the sound inside you. I am your Walkman. I am your Walkman. I am your Walkman. I am your Walkman.

Unidentified Man #1: They're obnoxious.

Unidentified Man #2: It looks stupid to me. Some people approve of it, you know. It's fine if - privacy your home, you know? A closet radio listener.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PROFITT: You know what? I love these big radios.

(Soundbite of music)

PROFITT: But there's something weird about these little headphones, isn't there?

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, people do kind of look funny and they kind of look, like, you know, pretty smug when I'm wearing them and everything.

Unidentified Man #1: With a radio, it's a power impulse, because I used to have big radio and everybody admires you with the radio. But as far as the little Walkmans is concerned, you're keeping all the sound to yourself.

PROFITT: What, pray tell, are you listening to on your headphones?

Unidentified Woman: Santana. I don't know which one, but it sounds good. All right.

Unidentified Man #4: I'm listening to an arrangement of the Boston Pops Symphony with Arthur Fiedler conducting. I'm 63.

Unidentified Man #2: You know, it's nice when you're walking around to hear other people talking and see what they're doing. And you're kind of putting blinders on.

PROFITT: You know, next thing they should do is have a little movies, you know, little sunglass movies so you don't have to look, either. Will you do me a favor and just sing a little bit of what they're playing right now?

Unidentified Woman: (Unintelligible)

(Soundbite of laughter)

PROFITT: You refer to these as an obnoxious device of growing popularity?

Unidentified Man #1: It causes people to isolate themselves from their experience, the contact with nature - sort of, a neo-existential prelude to doom.

(Soundbite of song, "I am Your Walkman")

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) I am your Walkman. I am your Walkman. I am your Walkman. I have become the sound inside you, the only sound inside you, the only sound inside you, the only sound inside you, the only sound…

CHADWICK: "I am Your Walkman," featuring music in vocals by former NPR director, Joe McLeno and DAY TO DAY's Steve Profitt, interviews by John Rigger(ph), lyrics by Jay Kernis - he is now senior vice president of programming at NPR. "I am Your Walkman" originally aired 26 years ago, and the producer was Mr. Noah Adams.

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