To listen to two
"I don't think today's Walkmans can be used in 40 years," says engineer Sato, recalling that digital formats are likely to be very different from today's, and rechargeable batteries that are impossible to find.
Sato remembers a time that under-20s never knew: when walking with earphones on the street was considered strange behavior. Today, headphones and wireless are a commonplace complement.
"Since I was very young, the devices had touch screens, not buttons," says Scott Fung, a 17-year-old student from Hong Kong, gaping at an old Walkman on display in Tokyo.
And his surprise didn't stop there: Walkman number 1 had two headphone jacks so "couples could listen to music together," Sato recalls.
Like passengers on a helicopter, both users could talk and hear over their headsets by pushing the orange hot-line button.
The best quality possible
After manufacturing more than 1,000 variants of the Walkman (Sony stopped counting in 2004) and selling over 420 million copies, the company has gone from tape to CD, to minidisc and flash memory, and the range continues to grow.
On the one hand, there are very popular models and, on the other hand, devices that bring together the best audio technologies from Sony, intended for music lovers willing to pay about 3,000 euros for excellent music quality.
Sony is not alone in this high-resolution audio niche: there are also South Korean Astell & Kern and Chinese manufacturers Cayin, Hiby and iBasso.
The Japanese brand, a pioneer in music playback on the move, was hit hard by the arrival of the Apple iPod in 2001. But then it was able to recover the sound freaks, with uncompressed digital audio files and improved streaming techniques without contributing to increase the quality.
"We are still pursuing the same idea we had with the first model: listening to music outside with the best quality possible," says Sato.