Can you imagine walking around NYC or going to the gym without the ability to listen to music on your headphones? It wasn't that long ago that everyone was subjected to street noise once they left their apartments, but in 1979 Sony released the original Walkman, changing our listening habits, stress levels, and way of life forever.
In a 1981 CBS Evening News segment (watch below), correspondent Bernard Goldberg delved into the world of portable players as they rise in popularity; at the time, they report that 750,000 people in America owned the product.
"Tiny stereo cassette players with featherweight headphones, it's caught on all over America, but nowhere as it has in New York," Goldberg declares. He speaks to people wearing headphones around the city, all of them giving similar comments—one man on the street tells him, "Listening to Beethoven and walking in Manhattan, walking on the streets, it's pretty nice, as opposed to hearing the sirens and jackhammers. It just puts you in your own world." Another New Yorker, on a subway platform, tells him, "Listen to all of this [subway noise], there's a lot of noise and confusion down here, it [listening to music on headphones] just centers me."
Not everyone had made the switch to headphones, however. As Goldberg points out, "Some still prefer last year's model, the radio that's about as big as the Empire State Building and as loud as World War II." Confronted with a loud boombox, one older man on the street blows: "It bothers the hell out of me, you're invading my life space with that damn thing. Not only mine but everyone else around here. I've had it up to here, I can't take it any more!" Buddy, wait til you come across someone playing music on their tinny sounding iPhone without earbuds.
In their own look back at the segment a few years ago, CBS explained, "The model most seen in the story appears to be Sony's TPS-L2 — the first model of the first-generation Walkman personal stereos. Sony says that critics inside and outside the company thought that 'without a recording function, it won't sell,' but the device proved to be a huge success."