The Evolution Of Personal Portable Sound

1980 to 1989

The 1980's - A Rad Decade

The 1980’s ushered in a revolutionary age of music. Not to mention, new ways to listen to it. With such technological advances such as MTV, the Sony Walkman, and the Compact Disc (CD) revolutionizing the way people listen to their favorite music. Making music, and the way we listen to it, ever more personalized.


The 1980’s was famous for its over-the-top music videos thanks to MTV’s debut in 1981, which brought rise to the over-the-top pop stars we all know and love today. Names like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, George Michael, and Whitney Houston to name a few, all rose to new heights thanks to the revolutionary new platform provided by MTV. MTV was the first ever network cable channel to air 24-hours of music videos across the nation. Which would forever change the pop music world. Lyrics and words were no longer as emphasized; instead, fashion, theatrics, and pageantry were utilized to create an ever more stylish music video. The effects of which can still be seen in today’s music videos. Moreover, it provided a picture, a visual to accompany the music at home, something the radio could never do. This visual aspect to music provided a clear picture into the culture and appearance for specific genre’s of music. Thus allowing viewers to look the part, of their favorite band or genre. A perfect example of this transformation of pop music is Michael Jackson’s 1982 music video and song Thriller.

Sony Walkman
public domain

The Sony Walkman

Although created in 1979, Sony’s Walkman saw prominence and growth during the ‘80s. What the Walkman provided was unprecedented in the history of music: mobile music. We take it for granted today; however, this was the first ever practical attempt to implement a mobile music platform to consumers. As such, it allowed the user to listen to music on-the-go wherever, whenever. This platform also furthered the growing preference for the smaller, compact cassette tape over vinyl records, which were eventually outpaced. In combination with a smaller, portable and easy to use system, the cassette tape and the Sony Walkman changed the game for what it meant to listen to music.

Sony Discman
public domain

Compact Disc

With its induction in 1982, the Compact Disc, more commonly known as the CD, once again helped modernize the way we listen to music to today. But first, we have to see how it affected the way music was heard first. The CD provided a higher quality of sound, was easier to transport due to its smaller size (compared to vinyl), and was able to store more songs on. Thus making it a more desired way to listen to music. It could also be listened to on-the-go thanks to the Sony Discman, the CD equivalent to the Walkman. Although not as mainstreamed as in the 1990’s, CD’s nevertheless still presented a new platform with which to listen with. It paved the way for further use for many more decades to come. Not only were they portable, but they would eventually become compatible with portable devices, radios, stereos, and cars, allowing for on-the-go listening.