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Walkman Creator Leaves Sony 89

Gammu writes "Nobutoshi Kihara, the engineer behind the Walkman, has left Sony. In the late seventies, one of the co-chairman of Sony, Morita, requested the audio division create a portable tape player capable of playing his operas while he was on transpacific flights to the US. After less than a year, the Walkman was released to the public and revolutionized the music industry. Read about the development of the first Walkman at Low End Mac."
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Walkman Creator Leaves Sony

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  • THe Walkman (Score:5, Funny)

    by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @09:21AM (#16804962) Journal
    I remember my first Walkman, and blasting "Ghost Busters". I thought I was so cool... now I post on Slashdot. The Walkman helped define a generation, and was one of the products that helped introduce more than one generation to the future of mobile music technology.
    • Re:THe Walkman (Score:5, Interesting)

      by joe 155 ( 937621 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @09:27AM (#16805000) Journal
      The Walkman helped define a generation

      Indeed it did, in the same way the iPod has done now. There is a lesson to Apple here about not taking customers and market share for granted.
      • Re:THe Walkman (Score:4, Insightful)

        by LiquidCoooled ( 634315 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @10:17AM (#16805286) Homepage Journal
        There is no lesson here.
        Sony were in the right place at the right time and managed to define a generation.
        Running a business is like a river, it ebbs and flows along. Sometimes its slow, other times its a raging torrent but as long as you stay in the boat you will reach the ocean.

        There are many products which define a generation, the walkman was one of those Nobutoshi Kihara and Sony should be proud of their achievements.

        Apple have caught the wave this time, and in another 5-10 years someone else will.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Barryke ( 772876 )
          I beleive what your parent meant was the whole Sony PS3 story.

          Leads to 'not creating a displeased public opinion concerning your brand or flagship product'
    • by Chaffar ( 670874 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @10:02AM (#16805206)
      I remember my first Walkman, and blasting "Ghost Busters". I thought I was so cool... now I post on Slashdot.
      It's hard to believe one could fall so low just by listening to crappy music on a portable tape player...
  • Walkman patent case (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 11, 2006 @09:24AM (#16804980)
    The article doesn't mention the German inventor that Sony settled with a couple of years ago. See http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/06/01/walkman_pa tent_case/ [theregister.co.uk]

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arose ( 644256 )
      A patent that describes both a Walkman and an iPod? How far into the "idea, not implementation" and "obvious" fields does one have to wander to not get a few million from someone who actualy did what you only had a fogy idea of?
  • Original Walkman (Score:5, Interesting)

    by in2mind ( 988476 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @09:26AM (#16804986) Homepage
    Do any of you still have the original 1979 Walkman in working condition now?
    • by Andy Gardner ( 850877 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @09:31AM (#16805030)
      I think I've still got one somewhere probably still works, although it did start chewing up tapes in the early 90's.
    • I have a black and white watchman sony TV in perfect working order, and I will be annoyed when it no longer will get OTA TV signals it can use, because we use it all the time when the power goes out to look at the radar images during storms.
      • Make some weather map MP4s and load them onto a video iPod.
        • ...video weather thing would be slick. We have weather radios, just mash the button instant on to the endless weather forecast. It would be neat to have a device like that that pulled the official NOAA radar images along with the audio. Just a small screen like those portable DVD players would be enough.
          • I think you really may be on to something with this, I know I'd buy one... Or pull an "MS" with your idea! Kankraka's dedicated weather video thing! Patent pending! In all seriousness though, that'd be something to seriously consider looking into. NOAA would have to start broadcasting video on those same frequencies, or use a dual channel broadcast system, one for video, one for audio and have dual receivers in the unit. It shouldn't be all that hard to implement, and I could see the sale of such a produc
            • by zogger ( 617870 )
              I'd sure buy one, no idea why they aren't out there either. I had this idea years ago, just no way to pull it off. It's the governments gig to do it, I don't see the FCC giving permission for just anyone to rebroadcast it over the air. Anyway, that is why I have a lot of 12 VDC stuff and keep a heavy marine battery charged up inside the house, so I can plug some stuff in easy and keep going when the power goes out. Thgat little watchman though is *amazing* how good the electronics are, I can get a better pi
            • And cut into AccuWeather's market share? Never going to happen. Just a few years ago, Congress almost passed some bill that would have prohibited the National Weather Service from releasing any information directly to the public via it's web site, because it created "unfair competition" with AccuWeather's offerings (AccuWeather basically just takes NWS data and resells it to news outlets in the form of a feed). (IIRC it was introduced by the late -- his career, anyway -- Sen. Santorum of Pennsylvania, but t
    • by RiotXIX ( 230569 )
      I don't think that Walkman are produced to the same standard of reliability as the ones from back then (leading to my own Walkman boycott, which I was provoked into).

      Basically, every sony mindisc player that I have come across seems to suffer from the blankdisk error after a year or two of open and shutting the case:


      from:minidisc.ch/problems.asp?todo=show&typ=Sony+M DS-302 (google cache works)
      Reported by i-Mac (Belgium) (06.07.2001 18:30:32):
      TOC error
      hello , everytime i'm recording and/or edit some stu
      • by in2mind ( 988476 )
        Their newer stuff just isn't reliable, and you can get better from firms which are actually trying to make the best product, and not just ride a wave of consumer assumptions & prior reputation.
        That absolutely compliments Avis's slogan "When you are number 2 you try harder ".
    • I got a red Walkman when I was pretty young. I remember having to put tape over the battery compartment. So, no, I think it has been destroyed.
      • I got a red Walkman when I was pretty young. I remember having to put tape over the battery compartment. So, no, I think it has been destroyed.

        No, no, no... the tape goes in the tape deck!

        No wonder it was destroyed!

        - RG>
    • I have one from 1984. Still working even after I dropped it on concrete numerous times. It has the signature 80's metallic plastic.
    • Yes, a blue one. Perfectly functional, it was never really used at all. My father used to buy a pair of any cool gadget. One to use, the other one in case the first one broke. Not too good for your bank account let me tell you!
    • I don't have an original Walkman, but somewhere around I do have a full-size-cassette Dictaphone of similar vintage, that's one of the best-made pieces of portable equipment I've ever owned. All metal construction, disassembelable (is that a word?) with a Phillips-head jewelers' screwdriver, reads and writes to a standard format, has all the inputs and outputs you'd expect, built to last forever. And perhaps most importantly, with a user-interface that you can use in the dark, with gloves on.

      I keep it aroun
  • by slughead ( 592713 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @09:29AM (#16805012) Homepage Journal
    Does this mean they'll stop making walkmans?

    These newfangled 'CD's will never catch on!
    • Wait until you see this thing they call 'iPod'. No skipping, easy to transport music, but no wireless - it's so lame
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Kihara could be very well the creator if the *Sony* walkman, but let's not forget who invented it : Andreas Pavel, who won a 20 year-long battle on the subject.
    Article here : http://itvibe.com/news/2587/ [itvibe.com]
  • by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @09:31AM (#16805034)
    Not so much "left Sony" as "retired". Seriously, both the summary and TFA are like "Sony in major world of poo - engineers leaving", rather than "trailbreaking engineer retires".
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by MP3Chuck ( 652277 )
      But, unfortunately, while both headlines are true, the summary/tfa headlines "sell" more clicks. You'd think /. would avoid joining the ranks of the rest of the "Sensationalist Media," though.
      • "You'd think /. would avoid joining the ranks of the rest of the "Sensationalist Media," though."

        Why? Slashdot sells clicks, too.
    • It's not really fair to say he retired as opposed to "left" just because he's too old to get a job elsewhere. Lots of people retire because they dont like the last job where they work. If mr walkman wanted to retire just for the sake of retiring he would have done so earlier.
  • Walkman Vs. Ipod (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BRUTICUS ( 325520 )
    Sony has a name that is still embedded in everyone's mind. If they were smart they would create their own Ipod killer and name it Walkman in a huge marketing campaign. Instead they are tarnishing the Walkman name and calling every single device they have that's capable of playing MP3s "Walkman".

    There is huge room for new MP3 devices still. Even with the Zune. The Ipod takes up such a large marketshare and it is a product that is frankly geared towards Mac users in a world that is dominated by PC users. Don'
    • Personally I'm a music maniac and have used various devices (3 sony casette walkmans, 1 sony CD walkman, 1 sony netMD and a creatvie muvo^2) for years. Sound quality was always going forward and muvo^2 was really a step back.

      Sony had some really nice DSPs (e.g. Type-S 24 bit DSP of my MD), engineering intelligence, innovation and other things required to build an iPod killer. I've been listening my MD for two days and thinking that why sony is not building devices which sound THAT good. Sony is already an
      • With a decent UI / styling, an extreme DSP and an easy way to transfer files between PC and device (like iPod (that can sync with linux too) or the plain removable device scheme) sony can beat everyone in the market and fill a niche market which is filled with ppl who are listening music 10hr+ a day.

        That's seems a big 'IF': I don't own a mp3 walkman, but what I heard from it you need some difficult and buggy software to put the songs on the device. The article shows that the original walkman was a success

    • I know what you mean. I also hate how Winamp and Linux's Banshee force you to organize your music and sync to your iPod the Winamp and Banshee ways (respectively.)
      • Agreed. I like the way I can 'sync' my Creative flash player better. I attach like any USB drive and it plays the music in the folders as I arrange them.

        At present I use Midnight Commander to 'sync' the player.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hhawk ( 26580 )
      They had or have a digital walkman..

      But they were at launch, all tied into their Memory Stick products...

      To expensive for my tastes. I can think of 3-4 products I didn't buy from Sony because I didn't want to be locked into the Memory Stick. I think it's the thinking behind the marketing of the Memory Stick that has lead to their decline.

      Granted it's hard as a World Leader; if you build new products in a open standard everyone is going to rush in and build to the same standard and you'll create a huge marke
    • by nomso ( 591062 )
      ... and it is a product that is frankly geared towards Mac users in a world that is dominated by PC users.
      Obviously, the world wishes it was a Mac user.
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )
      Does Sony produce a proper MP3 player yet?
      I know they make players that play MP3 files but as far as I know, the files they play need to be converted through some kind of converter into files that arent quite MP3 files anymore (and you cant copy the files back off and play them with a normal player AFAIK)

      I cant see Sony BMG Music ever allowing Sony Consumer Electronics to produce any portable audio player that stores music in a format that can be copied back off and played (remember, Sony Music was there wi
  • He retired (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyYar ( 622222 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @09:34AM (#16805050)
    The man is 80 years old. I think it would be better to say he "retired" rather than he "left". It's not like he quit in disgust or took a better offer somewhere else.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Now they'll change it for:

      At 80 yo, finally the walk-man retires.
  • Fixed (Score:2, Funny)

    by Mini-Geek ( 915324 )
    Walkman Creator Walks
    Title fixed
  • by rkodama ( 716651 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @10:25AM (#16805378)
    It's worth noting that the Walkman's lightweight headphones were made possible by the discovery and development of samarium cobalt (SmCo) permanent magnets in the early 1970's. Materials (e.g. AlNiCo) that existed before that were not only much weaker, but could only be made in elongated shapes, resulting in much bulkier voice coil assemblies.
  • A famous engineer retires from Sony, now aged 80, after 6 decades working there ... and Slashdot frames the headline and summary like he was a disgruntled employee ditching the place! WTF?
    • It's a slashdot thing. 2/3 of the employees at Google could quit in a huff, over issues involving data privacy, and Slashdot would summarize it as "2/3 of Google employees retire because of great retirement benefits Google offers."

      Because Google = Good; Sony = Evil
  • The real inventor (Score:2, Informative)

    by KeepQuiet ( 992584 )
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/12/16/news/profil e.php [iht.com]
    "Inspired by those discussions, Pavel invented the device known today as the Walkman. But it took more than 25 years of battling the Sony Corporation and others in courts and patent offices around the world before he finally won the right to say it: Andreas Pavel invented the portable personal stereo player."
    • Well, I think it is pretty safe to say that they both invented it independently. But for sure, Pavel deserves whatever recognition (and cash!) he can get. Sony treated him really badly, considering the profit they made from the Walkman. Giving him a reasonable payout 25 years ago would have been the right thing to do.
    • This story doesn't really read like one of a poor inventor who had his brainchild taken away by an evil megacorp, without any compensation. Maybe I am doing the man an injustice, but it sounds more like someone who had a good idea, noticed some rich corporation had the same idea and was making millions, and got greedy. I'd say he was entitled to a token license fee for making it to the patent office first.

      As TFA says, Sony didn't "invent" the Walkman with new tech; they built it based on an existing de
  • The sony he was a part of was innovators that wanted to create new and useful items that change the world.

    Today sony only wants to create products that opress and have the illusion of being world changing but when you get one you realize it's a ball of DRM with a shiney cover.

  • .. when they started using ATRAC and Soundstage for their MP3 players. A proprietary format that can't be used with any other device, and software that is massively awkward to use. Yeah, that's a good idea.
  • by psu_whammy ( 940612 ) on Saturday November 11, 2006 @11:16AM (#16805740)
    This is a perfect time to break out the Variety-speak, and you let it go completely.

    WALKMAN MAN WALKED, MAN!
  • If the Walkman had been released in 2006, it would have used an exotic, overpriced format of cassettes only used by Sony, and would only have been ready in 2008 at a cost of $800.
  • http://www.sony.net/Fun/SH/index.html [sony.net]

    Is, of course, produced by SONY, so it has a slant, but there are TONS of stories about this company and its products. Quite a few of them seem to be written WITH the folks who actually worked on whatever product they are describing. Very interesting.

    Oh, Cowboyneal: A few more 'headlines' like that, and we will start believing you went to the Dan Rather School of Journalism.
  • Nobutoshi Kihara, the engineer behind the Walkman, has left Sony.

    I wonder if they gave him an iPod as a retirement gift.
  • That Sony did not invent the walkman, it was a german guy and basically had trials for decade over the entire thing. He almost went bankrupt because Sony refused to pay, only after the old management left a settlement was achieved after decades of court trials and only a relatively small amount was paid. I am not sure if the german guy really has recovered from the costs of the trials.
    • that Sony brought the concept to market as a successful product and didn't just run to the patent office with a vague idea of something that might be produced. Who cares that he had the idea first? I had the idea for e-books in 1997 when it became obvious that you could get a portable LCD screen with enough battery life to read a book. Nobody, including me, really cares any more.

      Unless there is evidence that Sony stole this idea and did not develop it independently then Sony invented the actual product
  • Back in 1993 I purchased a black MZ1 MD Walkman while I was over in Japan. The device worked flawlessly, was easy to use and provided me with hours of listening enjoyment. It had optical out and a front loading mechanism which I could forsee jamming or breaking due to regular use; it never did. Years later after I had returned to the U.S. I sold it to a friend in the same box and packaging with a stack of unused blank minidiscs that I had purchased when I bought the Walkman.

    Around 2001 I purchased a gold
  • In the late seventies, one of the co-chairman of Sony, Morita, requested the audio division create a portable tape player capable of playing his operas while he was on transpacific flights to the US.

    Note to everyone at Sony, especially the executives and the people in the music division, _that_ is the way to do business if you want to make popular products and make money in the process. The key to great devices should be "I'd like to be able to do that, I bet our customers would like it to," not the curre

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