The remarkable part about the news that Sony is discontinuing the Walkman cassette player in Japan is that Sony was actually selling a cassette player! That’s amazing. And here’s something even more astonishing – you can still buy a Walkman cassette player in the USA. I would have bet against this, and I don’t bet.
Rectangular-headed monstrosities do seem to have a way of hanging on. The Walkman Cassette player looks rather clunky to us now, but in its day it was sleek and amazingly small. Most people have moved on, throwing their old cassette technology away in alarm, as if it were on fire, fearing that they would be left behind. Perhaps we’ll find Walkman remains submerged in a local lake or buried in the trash.
But the playback technology for photos, audio and video has changed so rapidly, future historians and garbage pile archeologists sifting through the landfills of our day will have a tough time telling what the various electronic devices were for, or in which era they were used. I suppose the landfill layer on which items are discovered will set an approximate date, much like counting the rings to determine the age of a tree. But will they have the patience to work out the technical difference between an open reel tape recorder from the 1960’s and a wire recorder of the 1930’s?
As the excavation goes on, evolutionary clues will emerge. On an upper layer they’ll find many differently configured and exotic CD players, and then a missing link – the vinyl LP to CD recorder! Just below that, discarded record sleeves and tone arms will begin to emerge. A few layers underneath will be the living room stereo cabinets with turntables nestled inside, their speakers covered with a luxurious looking fabric to fit in better with mom’s expensive drapes.
And at all levels of the debris there will be abandoned VHS tapes – rectangular plastic boxes. Just like the original Walkman.
How many layers of playback technology are in your landfill?