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The recent discourse about AirPods, whether they’re good or bad, or neutral themselves but separating everyone from the physical, echoes what the original Walkman inspired. “With the advent of the Sony Walkman came the end of meeting people,” a CBS Records vice president complained to the Post. “It’s like a drug: You put the Walkman on and you blot out the rest of the world.” George F. Will defended the Walkman because it separated you from the walkabout realities of everyday life! According to an academic paper, a French interviewer asked young people “whether they are losing contact with reality,” “whether the relations between eyes and ears are changing radically,” “whether they are worried about the fate of humanity.” Allan Bloom’s argument about the decline in college education, The Closing of the American Mind, features a throw-yourself-down-the-stairs grotesque of a teenage boy, toward whom the entire world has now been oriented, wearing a Walkman.
“We have entered the age of the urban hermit,” Walter Shapiro wrote in ’82, lamenting the end of the boom box and calling the Walkman “a potent symbol of an antisocial electronic future.”