Thursday, January 2, 2014

My walkman!

Let me introduce you to my best friend in 1984: the brand new Toshiba KT-AS1 walkman I was offered by a friend of my mom as a parting gift before my trip. The friend was an airline pilot, and he brought the walkman back from one of his trips to Japan (I think) as a special favor.

When I say this thing was my best friend, I'm not exaggerating. It followed me pretty much everywhere. I slept with it. You'll see why when you take a closer look at that little beauty:

First, as you can see in the logo at the bottom of the picture, it had Dolby! You could turn it on and off, and honestly, I would usually leave it off, as it took away too much "punch" from the sound. Second, it had a REVOLUTIONARY feature written in RED: AUTO-REVERSE! See, the "play" button has arrows going both ways! (It was sometimes confusing because the meaning of "fast forward" and "rewind" were relative and you were never quite sure what was the current direction). The green button reverses the direction of the tape! I found that one direction sounded better than the other though; I think the motor wasn't as powerful in both directions.

One of the toggles allows you to select automatic auto-reverse when reaching the end of the tape, thus allowing listening in a loop! My favorite thing: fall asleep listening to my favorite tape! (slight problem though: batteries weren't cheap).  The other toggle, as mentioned earlier, is to turn off Dolby. also notice the TWO headphone jacks: share the fun with a friend! My Toshiba wasn't the jealous kind...

But moving on to the most important feature: the TUNER!

See the little fellow to the right? Meet the tuner! This walkman was, I believe, one of the very first models to carry one, and to keep things compact they had to innovate. The tuner's shaped like a cassette tape, and so when you wanted to listen to the radio you'd open the lid and insert the tuner. The tuning knob conveniently protrudes from the lid (picture the tuner standing up vertically and you'll see how the knob aligns with the hole to the left of the FF button). But you did need to select AM or FM before you inserted the tuner.

Thanks to that little tuner I was constantly updating my knowledge of French pop culture to catch up to my buddies as part of my highly-sought assimilation process. I think I overdid it hough, hence this blog...

A couple more details:

The black thingy on the right is a belt clip-on. This is how the Toshiba never left me. It was with me with every walk to school, every trip to the magazine store to buy my weekly Spirou Magazine (there will be a blog post on this), and every rare long bus trip to Montpellier. Music colored everything; it made everything tolerable, less lonely, but also often more melancholy.

The box at the bottom of the picture was something I never saw with any other model: it was a container for big batteries; this way your listening pleasure would last longer and possibly cost less. Didn't use it much as it was bulky, even though it also clipped on to your belt. 

As mentioned earlier, I of course slept with the Toshiba every night. My bed was actually some sort of bunk bed. The bottom part wasn't a bed but a desk for the oldest kid of the family I was staying with. There was a ladder on the side to climb up to my bed. Being "upstairs" gave me a little bit of much appreciated privacy... The drawback was that a few times that poor walkman took a fall while I was sleeping. Not only the noise woke everybody up, but also ultimately the walkman was a little damaged, and tapes wouldn't sound so hot anymore. The tuner, thankfully, kept going, so the problem was probably the motor. So I ended up mostly listening to the radio, and that's how I'm quite the expert on French radio programming as well, but that's for another post...

(disclaimer: the nice photos were lifted off eBay; will happily replace them with my own if it's a problem)


  1. I don't think I had a Walkman then, I do remember listening to the radio Nrj, Listening to pop music was in general a new experience for us

  2. video nugget of the day

  3. news event: L'Affaire Gregory, around October or November as well

  4. Getting a Walkman at the age of 14 was just perfect timing. If I'd been a little bit younger, I probably wouldn't have cared so much.