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The Walkman at 30: An Exclusive Interview

Sony’s original Walkman turns 30 years old this week. He sat down with eSarcasm for an exclusive interview about his life and ongoing struggles with depression.

By (@JRRaphael)

July 2, 2009

The story you're about to read is not (entirely) true. It is, however, more accurate than most things on network television.

He was once the symbol of coolness: a sleek box clipped to the neon pants of countless teens, screaming out: “Yeah, that’s right. I’m moving around, AND I’m rocking out. What are you gonna do about it?”

These days, though — 30 years later — the original Sony Walkman is a far cry from his former self. eSarcasm caught up with the Walkman at his home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where he lives a quiet and humble life out of the spotlight. Alternating between sips of whiskey and drags on a seemingly endless supply of hand-rolled cigarettes, the Walkman opened up about his life — and the dark and winding road he’s been wandering since the late 80s.

Walkman at 30

eSarcasm: It’s been a while since we’ve seen you. What’s been going on in your life?

Walkman: The truth, man, is that things haven’t been easy. It all started when my younger brother Discman double-crossed me around ’84. I tried to keep a brave face, putting in my favorite Winger tape to show I still had the good stuff. But when Disc got the same album on CD, and he didn’t even have to flip it over after the seventh song, I knew my heyday was over. That backstabbing bastard knew I stood no chance.

eSarcasm: You also ended a pretty serious relationship around that time. Tell us what happened.

Walkman: I’d been shacking up with this babe named Amiga. Let me tell you something, brother: She was one hot piece of equipment. The smoothest surface you’d ever seen, man. But around the time Disc started creeping up on my territory, this goon named Dell came along and started sneaking around with my woman. Next thing I knew, she came to me and said she’d been swapping data with him for months. That was it for us.

eSarcasm: Ouch…so sorry to hear how that went down. Now, though, you’ve started anew here in Arkansas. What brought you this way?

Walkman: Once Amiga left me, I really entered a downward spiral. I called up my cousin Betamax, and he told me he’d come out here when he was on the brink of collapsing. And I was there, man — I was there. Drugs, hooking up with random headphones every night, you name it. I hadn’t even made it to side B of a cassette without crying in months. If I could rewind and do it all over again, I would — but I knew that wasn’t an option. So I moved here to Fayetteville to try to reinvent myself. And I’ve been here ever since.

eSarcasm: You’ve found some real support from the community here, too.

Walkman: Oh, totally. The area’s become a real safe haven for the Sony family. MiniDisc, Laserdisc, and Boombox, man — they’re all here. We help each other keep our heads up. When Discman had the nerve to show up a few months ago, we even took him in and helped him get back up and spinning.

eSarcasm: Reflecting back on 30 years, now, what’s your most vivid memory?

Walkman: It would probably have to be in ’91, when I let The Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” single enter me. That was a real turning point. I knew the wind of change was blowing…and things would never be the same. This new generation of players, man, they don’t know it yet — they don’t know how hard it stings when you find yourself begging just to have someone touch your button, or pleading with a taut young cassette just to slip into your opening for a few short minutes. One day, though, they’ll know the pain. That guy from The Scorpions was right in so many ways. Remember? “The wind of change blows straight, into the face of time. And the children of tomorrow dream away, in the wind of change…”

(Editor’s note: At this point in the interview, the Walkman began incessantly whistling that melody from “Wind of Change” while weeping. We felt it was a good time to end our visit, bidding the Sony family farewell and wishing them continued happiness in the tight-knit electronics community of northwestern Arkansas.)

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