Can Sony’s 1984 portable CD player compete with Apple’s 21st Century iPod? Cameron Gilmore seems to think so…
A few months ago I lost my trusty iPod. Skint, I made an emergency investment on an object that I didn’t even know still existed. Lurking somewhere in the dim chambers of an Argos catalogue lay a custodian of technological advancement, the hallmark of a generation…the Walkman. I purchased Sony’s portable CD player tepidly, thinking that it was a means to an end – a cheap, temporary replacement for my essential iPod. Then, I realised something. When listening to the Kyuss track, 500 Million Year Trip, I noticed that there were two guitar tracks on it. The song I’d heard a million times before now sounded completely different. This improved sound quality got me thinking; are iPods really better than the Walkman?
It’s probably worth pointing out that, to make a Walkman worth its salt, you require a bountiful collection
of CDs. You also require a lot of batteries. When travelling to London recently, the emergency Walkman only lasted until somewhere near Cumbria, where it cut out rather depressingly at the bridge to 4st 7lb by Manic Street Preachers. If fully charged, an iPod could do the trip to London and most of the way back again; even when you think it has no more to give it just keeps on producing, like some kind of Trojan. However, the difference in sound quality makes the hassle worth it, if only on a one-off basis. The redemption is in hearing the whole song as the artist intended.
The iPod brings with it the dimension of iTunes and the capacity to watch films or videos. It’s compact, so in terms of travelling it’s just so much more efficient. You don’t need a bag full of CDs and spare batteries to make it operable. I couldn’t imagine my train journey home without it, or the bus to university without it,
or getting on a plane without it. It would be grim. Life would turn into a director’s cut of Waiting for Godot. When the Walkman dies, it leaves you with an empty, sad feeling. The music stops and the world does too. The iPod, on the other hand, just keeps delivering.
However, there’s always the issue of price. The emergency Walkman was around £25. A standard brand new iPod costs about £120. If you’re doing it legally, the cost of CDs and tracks off iTunes will take a large amount of time to recompensate that initial difference, especially with HMV’s Blue Cross Sale. If you’re willing to carry the extra baggage in the morning, the Walkman can prove fairly cost effective – although rechargeable batteries would probably be a wise investment.
Overall, I have to admit that the iPod wins this battle, because it is just too damn efficient. You may miss out on certain technical parts of songs, but for a busy person who doesn’t have the time to play music critic, it works. It’ll get you to work, take you on holiday, and have enough battery left to bring you home again. The Walkman is for those with time on their hands, to appreciate music in its entirety – the sound of a CD will remain unparalleled for me. But in terms of pragmatism? The iPod reigns supreme.