Sony and the cool

I recommend this fine Brooks Review piece on how Sony’s lost their way (it was inspired, in turn, by this excellent Jeff Yang article in the Chronicle). When I was growing up, I loved, loved, loved Sony stuff. My dad owned a Walkman 2 (1981), and it fascinated me. Clunky controls: function over form, the weird selector buttons irregularly sized, paired with dials… and it broke music for me. Cassettes on headphones, with true stereo, and portable, it was a leap I couldn’t believe. I thought that thing was the coolest. For being so tiny, it took a remarkable amount of abuse and kept running. Twenty years later, writing this makes me want to go buy one.

wm-2_2 by nextartist

“wm-2_2 by nextartist, cc-licensed”

My parents bought my brother and I Discmen one Christmas. I feel the almost the same way about the Discman as the Walkman II: it’s a beautiful device, the sound quality was amazing, and I used it for years. I cracked the display in a car accident, but it took ten years of use without complaint. A year or so ago a stereo died on me and I ended up digging it out of my nerd box of components. Ran like a top. I wrote my dad a nice re-thank-you note.

I only bought Sony whenever I had a choice. When someone stole the deck out of the awful Mazda 626 I was driving, I bought the crappiest tape deck Target sold (features included “Auto-Stop”) and went back to using my Discman and an adapter.

I can’t point to where exactly I gave up on brand loyalty, but after being less and less happy with each of my purchases, I went to discontent: one of my receivers died just out of warranty, while on another the display doesn’t work unless you press on the faceplate just right, which is… yeah, it’s a loose connection somewhere that results in a terrible experience every time I need to read it. And then to open frustration: the Playstation 3’s user interface is one of the worst I’ve ever had to wrestle with (and I worked on back-end telecom systems in the 90s). Every time it sends me off to a different random corner of its nested menus, I want to grind my teeth and never have to use it again.

When I could beg the Walkman II off my dad and the batteries ran out, all I could think of was how to get a new set, or milk another five minutes out of another set that wasn’t quite dead. I wanted to use it. Now Sony makes electronics I hate to use.

I miss Sony.

Postcript: fittingly, Sony’s abandoned their “Sony History” pages, which now 404.

2 thoughts on “Sony and the cool

  1. Scott Green

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the Sony products… I used to be strictly a Sony guy with my walkman and stereo’s, but now I just can’t do it. On a note I find that Samsung is becoming the new version of Sony with more quality products (If purchased from somewhere other than Wal-Mart). Just for fun I also used to enjoy the Sony commercials. Particularly the “Sony. Because Caucasians are just too damn tall” tag line from a lesser known production.

  2. Bob Pearson

    Similar experience. Loved the old Walkman. I bought a Sony Hi MD recorder to record owl voices and have never been more disappointed in a product. And consumer help was non-existent.

    I get Sony commercials on e-mail, and I keep them coming becuase it is so satisfying to delete them.

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