Remembering the Debut of the Walkman

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.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

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

ALEX COHEN, host:

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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