Hit Rewind: Sony Walkman Triggers Nostalgia On 40th Birthday

In this picture taken on July 10, 2019, a WM-24 Sony Walkman audio player is displayed at an exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the iconic device, in Tokyo. 
Behrouz MEHRI / AFP

 

Must-have 80s gadget and one-time icon of Japan electronics cool, Sony’s Walkman turned 40 this year and like its now middle-aged fans, is clinging to its youth with high-tech updates.

On July 1, 1979, as the global economy suffered through the second oil shock, Sony unleashed on the world a dark-blue brick of a machine with chunky silver buttons, the Walkman TPS-L2.

Priced at a hefty 33,000 yen –$300 in today’s money — the first-generation Walkman could not record but its stereo music playback function quickly captured hearts in Japan and then the world.

It had two headset jacks — labelled “guys” and “dolls” — to allow two people to listen simultaneously. A bright orange “hotline” button could be pressed to lower the volume while the couple chatted.

After a disappointing first month when only 3,000 units were sold, sales exploded to eventually hit 1.5 million worldwide for the first model. The second model, the WM-2, which came in red, black and silver, chalked up sales of 2.58 million.

Over the following four decades, Sony sold more than 420 million “Walkmen” and stopped counting the number of models it had produced when it hit the 1,000 mark — about 15 years ago.

Various models of Sony Walkman audio players are displayed at an exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the iconic device, in Tokyo. Behrouz MEHRI / AFP

 

The Japanese electronics giant chose the name partly because of the popularity of Superman at the time and the fact it was based on an existing audio recorder called the “Pressman.”

The word “Walkman” has since entered everyday language but the device was initially called “Soundabout”, “Stowaway” or “Freestyle” in some parts of the world.

“The Walkman is my youth,” said Katsuya Kumagai, now 51, as he browsed an exhibition to mark the 40th anniversary of the first edition.

“It was always in my life,” he added, scanning some of the 230 varieties of Walkman on show, which also offers nostalgic visitors the chance to play with some of the older models.

As an 11-year-old, Kumagai could never afford a Walkman and envied older children as they whizzed by on roller skates plugged into the latest sounds.

“I’m quite emotional. Memories from those days are flooding back,” he said, echoing the thoughts of many a middle-aged fan for whom the Walkman provided the soundtrack to their youth.

A TPS-L2 Walkman audio player, the first Walkman to go on sale in Japan, at the exhibition. 
Behrouz MEHRI / AFP

‘Play and pause’

Sony continued production of the cassette-tape Walkman until 2010, long after the technology had been overtaken first by the Compact Disc in the 1980s and the MiniDisc Walkman in 1992.

Like many in the industry, the Japanese firm was shaken by the emergence of Apple’s iPod when suddenly a listener’s entire music collection was available on the move.

But Sony has scrambled to keep up and the latest high-end versions cost well over $2,000 and look more like a smartphone with flash memory and high-res audio — a far cry from the early generations.

Scott Fung, a 17-year-old also attending the exhibition, has never known a time when people could not listen to music on the move and said he had “only heard” about the Walkman and was keen to satisfy his curiosity.

“Ever since I grew up, devices have always had screens and they don’t have physical buttons,” he said clutching his smartphone and gazing at the early Walkmen on display.

“When I was born, Sony Walkman was already not as relevant… (it) was not really a big part of my life,” said the student from Hong Kong who listens to music via his smartphone.

But perhaps surprisingly, he revealed himself to be a fan of the older tech.

“I think this older design is really intelligent where you can just play and pause, go back and forth in a song, which is very interesting to me,” he said.

A woman walks past an oversized replica of a WM-F5 Sony Walkman outside the venue for the exhibition. Behrouz MEHRI / AFP

‘It’s so cool’

Fung is apparently not alone in his penchant for the old-school technology: a first edition Walkman presented as new and never used sold recently for 1.3 million yen, a mere 40 times its initial price.

Sony engineer Hiroaki Sato, who worked on the early Walkman editions, even said it would be “quite difficult” to replicate the technology now, as it would involve painstakingly reproducing high-precision components.

He said the current versions would likely not exist in 40 years as the recording formats and rechargeable batteries would undoubtedly have changed beyond recognition.

But the old Walkman has stood the test of time.

“Repairing this, I realised this is an excellent machine. If we replace the damaged rubber belt, it works normally. It’s so cool,” he said.

 

Sony Buys EMI Music Publishing In $1.9bn Deal

Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida arrives to take part in a press conference at the Sony headquarters in Tokyo on May 22, 2018. Japanese entertainment giant Sony on May 22 announced a 1.9-billion USD deal to acquire EMI Music Publishing, one of the world’s largest music publishing companies with rights to songs by the likes of Queen and Pharrell Williams. PHOTO: Martin BUREAU / AFP

 

Japanese entertainment giant Sony on Tuesday unveiled a $1.9-billion deal to buy industry titan EMI Music Publishing, which has the rights to songs by the likes of Queen and Pharrell Williams.

The deal adds a catalogue of more than two million songs — including some of the greatest hits from the 20th century — to Sony’s already huge repertoire.

The agreement is Sony’s first major deal under new CEO Kenichiro Yoshida, who noted the music business has enjoyed a “resurgence” in recent years due to streaming services provided by companies such as Spotify and Apple.

With this purchase, Sony “is becoming one of the biggest music publishing companies, both in name and reality”, Yoshida told reporters.

“We are thrilled to bring EMI Music Publishing into the Sony family and maintain our number one position in the music publishing industry,” Yoshida said in an earlier statement.

“I believe this acquisition will be a particularly significant milestone for our long-term growth,” added Yoshira, who took the Sony helm last month.

Sony said it had signed a deal with Abu Dhabi-based investment firm Mubadala to buy its 60 percent holding, giving the Japanese firm a stake of about 90 percent.

The agreement values EMI Music Publishing at $4.75 billion, the Sony statement said, adding that “the closing of the transaction is subject to certain closing conditions, including regulatory approvals”.

Yoshida also Tuesday unveiled Sony’s latest strategic plan, which aims to bolster its content business — pursuing the direction his predecessor Kazuo Hirai had taken to revitalise one of Japan’s best-known firms.

“We are a technology firm, but the technology means not only electronics but also entertainment and content-creation” in today’s world, Yoshida said.

Sony will continue to build up its content services — as shown by Tuesday’s deal — and also invest heavily in cutting-edge technologies including image sensors, he said.

 ‘Over the Rainbow’

“This is part of Sony’s strategy under Yoshida to beef up its entertainment businesses,” noted Hideki Yasuda, an analyst at Ace Research Institute in Tokyo.

“In the music business, copyrights are crucial. So the deal is meaningful and its price appears practical and reasonable,” the analyst told AFP, adding that success would depend on the quality of the content Sony creates in the future.

The electronics and entertainment behemoth last month reported record annual profits of $4.5 billion, a roaring recovery supported by better sales across the board and helped by box office blockbusters like its Jumanji reboot.

Those figures were seen as a fitting send-off for Hirai, who recently stepped down as the firm’s chief executive after spending the past six years pulling the firm out of deep financial trouble.

Hirai led an aggressive restructuring drive at Sony, cutting thousands of jobs while selling business units and assets.

EMI is the second-largest music publishing company by revenue and either owns or administers some two million songs, including classics by the likes of Queen, Sam Smith and Pharrell Williams.

As for Sony, it already owns 2.3 million copyrights including the Beatles catalogue, as well as being a massive player in IT, communications, film and gaming.

EMI holds a “comprehensive and diverse collection of copyrights for music and lyrics” from a “wide variety of iconic and popular songwriters”, the statement said.

Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow” continues to be a top-10 money-spinner even today, more than 75 years after its initial release, it added.

Current songwriters under its banner include Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Drake, Pink, Fetty Wap and Hozier.

Investors, however, appeared dubious about the acquisition and the new strategic plan, with Sony stock closing down nearly two percent, underperforming the wider market which was down 0.42 percent.

AFP

Jumanji’ Leads Box Office Pack Over US Holiday Weekend

(FILES) This file photo taken on December 11, 2017 shows members of the cast, including in front seat, Kevin Hart and Dwayne Johnson and in rear, Karen Gillan and Jack Black, arriving for the premiere of the film `Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle` in Hollywood, California. PHOTO: FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP

Sony’s family film “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” had a lock on the top spot at the North American box office this holiday weekend, for the second straight week.

“Jumanji,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, funnymen Jack Black and Kevin Hart, netted $35.2 million over the Martin Luther King Day weekend, bringing its domestic total to $291.3 million in its fourth week out, industry tracker Exhibitor Relations reported.

The film follows four teens who find themselves inside the video game world of Jumanji.

In second place was Fox’s “The Post,” which pulled in $23 million over the Friday-Monday MLK weekend after heading into wide release.

A critically-acclaimed film starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, the political thriller recounts the nail-biting behind-the-scenes story of the 1971 publication by The Washington Post of the Pentagon Papers, which exposed the lies behind US involvement in the Vietnam War.

Fox’s “The Greatest Showman” which tells the story of larger-than-life circus impresario P.T. Barnum, netted $16.2 million for third place.

“The Commuter,” a new action thriller from Lionsgate, took $15.8 million in its first week, putting it in fourth place.

In the film, a man played by Liam Neeson takes his regular train ride home and is unwittingly enticed into a murder conspiracy by a mysterious woman, played by Vera Farmiga.

“Paddington 2” netted $15 million to take the fifth spot.

And  “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” brought in $14.6 million in North America for sixth place. The space saga stars Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and two members of the series’ original cast, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and the late Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

“Insidious: the Last Key” ($14.3 million)

“Proud Mary” ($11.7 million)

“Pitch Perfect 3” ($7.3 million)

“Darkest Hour” ($5.4 million)

AFP

Amnesty International Accuses Tech Firms Of Child Labour

amnestyTech firms like Apple, Samsung and Sony, among others, have failed to ensure that minerals used in their products are not mined by children.

That is according to a report released by human rights group Amnesty International.

In a report into cobalt mining in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the group found children as young as seven working in dangerous conditions.

“Millions of people enjoy the benefits of new technologies but rarely ask how they are made. It is high time the big brands took some responsibility for the mining of the raw materials that make their lucrative products,” Business and Human Rights Researcher at Amnesty International, Mark Dummett said.

“The glamorous shop displays and marketing of state of the art technologies are a stark contrast to the children carrying bags of rocks, and miners in narrow manmade tunnels risking permanent lung damage,” he added.

Cobalt is a vital component of lithium-ion batteries.

The firms have however denied the accusations saying that they have a zero tolerance policy towards child labour.

Amnesty International says miners working in the area face long-term health problems and the risk of fatal accidents

The DRC produces at least 50% of the world’s cobalt.

Obama To Sign Executive Order On Cyber Security

obamaThe U.S President, Barack Obama, is expected to sign an executive order on Friday which is aimed at encouraging companies to share information about cyber security threats with the government and each other, a response to attacks like that of Sony.

Obama will sign the order at a day-long conference on cybersecurity at Stanford University in the heart of Silicon Valley.

The order of the summit sets the stage for new private-sector led “Information Sharing and Analysis Organizations” (ISAOs) – hubs, where companies share cyber threat data with each other and with the Department of Homeland Security.

Mr Obama, who will be joining at the summit with top US security officials, is planning to call on private tech firms to share more information with law enforcement, potentially placing him at odds with the companies.

A senior member of Britain’s National Crime Agency is also due to appear, along with executives from Microsoft, Facebook and Google.

Mr Obama “wants to build support for efforts to better protect against cuber-threats and share more information about cyber-attacks”, the White House said.

Michael Daniel, Obama’s cyber coordinator, in a conference call with reporters said: “We believe that by clearly defining what makes for a good ISAO, that will make tying liability protection to sectoral organisations easier and more accessible to the public and to privacy and civil liberties advocates”.

Cybersecurity industry veterans said that Obama’s anticipated order would be a modest step in one of the president’s major priorities which is the defense of companies from cyber attacks.

Obama has proposed legislation to require more information-sharing and limit any legal liability for companies that share too much. Only Congress can provide the liability protection through legislation.

In the last summit, Obama said cybersecurity was a “challenge that we can only meet together, adding that ”it’s going to bring everybody together – industry, tech companies, law enforcement, consumer and privacy advocates, law professors who are specialists in the field, as well as students – to make sure that we work through these issues in a public, transparent fashion.”

Other dignitaries are microsoft vice-president Scott Charney and Chief Executives from Visa, MasterCard and American Express.

Sony Set To Release ‘The Interview’ At Limited Number Of Theaters This Christmas

2014-12-23T220659Z_1_LYNXMPEABM0VJ_RTROPTP_4_NORTHKOREA-CYBERATTACK-SONYDespite several threats from hackers Sony (SNE) Pictures is making the controversial Seth Rogen comedy available at a limited number of theaters starting on Christmas.

Sony Pictures Entertainment Chief Executive, Michael Lynton, said the studio was looking for more options to screen the film, which major US theater chains pulled because of threats from hackers who warned of a September 11, 2001 style of attack.

Lynton said in Tuesday’s statement: “We have never given up on releasing The Interview and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day.” He said Sony was trying to secure other platforms and more theaters “so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.”

US President Barack Obama has welcomed the decision by Sony to screen the comedy about North Korea in a limited number of US cinemas on Christmas Day.

He had earlier criticised Sony for pulling the film following a cyber-attack and threats against cinemas.

Mr Obama had called Sony’s earlier decision to cancel the film’s release a “mistake”.

The US has accused North Korea of being behind the cyber-attack.

North Korea has denied that it was behind the cyber-attack on Sony. But it praised the attack and had long condemned The Interview, which depicts a fictional plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The Interview was originally due to be released on up to 3,000 screens on Christmas Day.

The film is expected to show in 200 mostly independent and art-house cinemas on Thursday. Hackers have threatened fresh attacks.

A national security official said US authorities did not rate the threats by hackers against theatergoers as credible and that he was unaware of any plans by U.S. agencies to issue warnings of possible attacks on exhibitors screening the film.

North Korea experienced Internet problems at the weekend and a complete outage of nearly nine hours before links were largely restored on Tuesday; U.S. officials said Washington was not involved.

Sony Pictures Entertainment Still Struggling Eight Days After Cyber Attack

23d6d38d543d192f670f6a706700954cEight days after a massive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, the Hollywood studio is still finding it hard to restore some systems on Tuesday evening as investigators combed for evidence to identify the culprit.

Some employees at the Sony Corp (6758.T) entertainment unit were given new computers to replace ones that had been attacked with the rare data-wiping virus, which had made their machines unable to operate, according to a person with knowledge of Sony’s operations.

Sony has brought back some systems online, focusing first on those from which it generates revenues, including those involved with marketing and distributing its films and TV shows.

They are “not yet sure of the full scope of information that the attackers have or might release,” according to the memo first reported by Variety. They encouraged employees to take advantage of identity protection services being offered.

Their concern underscores the severity of the breach, which experts say is the first major attack on a U.S. company to use a highly destructive class of malicious software that is designed to make computer networks unable to operate.

Government investigators, led by the FBI, are considering multiple suspects in the attack, including North Korea, according to a U.S. national security official with knowledge of the investigation.

The FBI said on Tuesday that it was working with its counterparts in Sony’s home country of Japan in the investigation.

That comes after it warned U.S. businesses on Monday about hackers’ use of malicious software and suggested ways to defend themselves. The warning said that some of the software used by the hackers had been compiled in Korea, but it did not discuss any possible connection to North Korea.

The hack, which was launched November 24, only affected computers with Microsoft Corp’s (MSFT.O) Windows software, so Sony employees using Apple Inc (AAPL.O) Macs, including many in the marketing department, had not been affected, according to the person familiar with Sony’s operations, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the attack.

People claiming responsibility for this latest attack have posted high-quality digital copies of yet-to-be-released Sony films and what they claim are sensitive data about its operations and employees on internet download sites, making them freely available to the public in a series of releases over the past five days.

Sony’s holiday musical “Annie”, which is due to be released December 19 in the United States, was available for download on a popular piracy site on Tuesday evening.

Sony Pictures Entertainment shut down its internal computer network last week to prevent the data-wiping software from causing further damage, forcing employees to use paper and pen.

Sony was also victim of a notorious 2011 breach that compromised data of tens of millions of PlayStation Network users.

Sony Xperia T gets “James Bond” hype

It can be said authentically now that Sony’s Xperia T mobile phone has gotten more prominence as it was mentioned as the ‘James Bond phone’. Although it does not come up as something suave and stylish, possibly throwing in some devilish weapon or a nifty tool to open impenetrable doors too but it comes with its own exclusive content via the O2 network.

Sadly it doesn’t come with a special handset design. Would it have been that difficult to stick a Bond logo on the back? Obviously it was which a shame is.

Instead, you’ll get a handset that is preloaded with Skyfall content, including the 007 ringtone, themes and screensavers, plus Skyfall images geo-tagged to the film’s locations. It also has exclusive James Bond packaging, which is nice, but it’s not something you can show off when you are out and about. As a final sweetener, a copy of the 007 Legends game is thrown in for free.

The phone itself remains unchanged technically, which means a set of features headed up by a 4.6-inch screen powered by the Mobile BRAVIA engine, a 13-megapixel camera with ‘Sleep-to-snap’ feature to take a photo quickly plus 1080p video recording, along with NFC connectivity and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor.

 

O2 has the phone down for a September launch, which ties in with what we heard about a launch right at the end of the month. Contact O2 for details of its pricing, which is unlikely to differ much from the standard version.

 

 

Apple, Sony, RIM and others sued by Graphics Properties Holdings

Apple, Sony and four other companies were sued by Graphics Properties Holdings, formerly known as Silicon Graphics, for allegedly infringing a patent through their sale of mobile phones and other electronic devices.

The lawsuits against Apple, Taiwan-based HTC Corp, South Korea-based LG Electronics Inc and Samsung Electronics Co., BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd and Japan’s Sony Corp were filed in the U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The patent at issue relates to a computer graphics process that turns text and images into pixels to be displayed on screens.

According to the lawsuits, the defendants’ infringing devices include Apple’s iPhone and the HTC EVO4G, LG Thrill, Research in Motion Torch, Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy S II, and Sony Xperia Play smartphones.

Graphics Properties said that unless the alleged infringements are halted, it will suffer irreparable harm. The lawsuits seek to stop the sale of infringing products and also seek reasonable royalties and other damages.

LG spokesman John Taylor said that company does not generally discuss pending legal matters. A Sony spokeswoman had no immediate comment. The remaining companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Silicon Graphics filed for bankruptcy in 2009 and sold much of its operations to Rackable Systems Inc. The remaining operations are based in New Rochelle, New York, and are owned by private investment firms and other investors, according to the complaints.

The lawsuits are all in the U.S. District Court, District of Delaware.