The Walkman Archive

Travel back to the 80s with us, where the portable cassette player was accused of turning people into “wind-up non-humans,” laws were passed to keep them off the streets, and one New Jersey man risked jail time for his right to walk with headphones. Be sure to check out the podcast episode as well, where we untangle all of the fears people had about this new technology.

Will Personal Headphones Lead to a World of Silence?

Reading Eagle | November 30th, 1981

Y ou’ve already seen the symptoms: the straight-ahead stare; the Mona Lisa smile crossing faintly moving lips; the rhythmic gait usually reserved for the dance floors, and a voracious appetite for fresh batteries.


Headsets Tune out Life Itself

The Milwaukee Journal | September 22nd, 1982

I can’t see how any reasonably sane, moderately intelligent human being cold be duped into buying a Sony Walkman. Yet, hundreds of apparently mindless consumers have greedily gobbled up this technological toy without the slightest thought as to whether it will improve their lives. Now, at any hour of the day, anywhere, one has no trouble spotting dozens of these wind-up non-humans walking up and down pedestrian malls like some disaffected group of air traffic controllers.



Isolation is a Result of Pluggin In

The Milwaukee Sentinel | August 31st, 1984

“The Walkman is part of a whole genre of technology that isolates people,” Shuter said.

The most recent additions to this genre are the home computer and video games. But all technologies, especially communications technologies., are individual experiences that isolate and sometimes alienate people if they become too involved with their tools.



Ear Plugging is Epidemic

Boca Raton News  | July 26th, 1982

B ut all we know is that whatever the Walkman is tuned in to, its wearer has tuned out the rest of us. What the headset says is, “Nothing you could possibly say could be of the slightest interest to me. Leave me alone.”


Lets Ban the Walkman

Montreal Gazette  | November 1st, 1983

I say ban the Walkman and all other radios of that ilk. They are hazardous to the health and safety of our youngsters.


The Personal Stereo Comes Under Attack

Democrat and Chronical | December 24th, 1982

Are they distracting and unhealthy?

S ony Walkman and friends — those portable personal stereos with the featherweight earphones that sprout from people’s heads — are facing nasty criticism from the police, psychologists and ear doctors. 

In some communities and states, there has even been talk of banishing Walkman from the streets.


Town in Jersey Enforces Its Ban on Headphones

The New York Times  | October 8th, 1982

T he ban on wearing headphones on the streets of this central New Jersey community went into effect today, and the first summons was issued, as expected, to a man who earlier said he would challenge the law as unconstitutional.

Headphones Wearer Arrested in New Jersey

Baltimore Afro-American  | October 19th, 1982

“H e put the earphones on in front of my cops, and said, ‘OK, here I am. What are you going to do?’ ” O’Brien said. The officer warned Gross of the law, said O’Brien, but Gross marched across the street — ears encased in foam.


Headphones Foe Proud of Citation

Asbury Park Press |  October 8th, 1982

Oscar Gross says he is proud to have gotten the first summons for violating the new ban on wearing headphones on the streets of this central New Jersey community. The law went into effect yesterday. Just after noon, Gross was issued a summons for crossing Main Street wearing the popular headphones, Police Chief Anthony O’Brien said. Gross said, “In my opinion the ordinance is unconstitutional because… (it forbids) wearing what a person sees fit whenever he wants.”


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