My life as a Walkman
As I walked through Akihabara yesterday, I considered how much Japan has influenced the world through the export of automotives, food, folklore and film, personal entertainment, animation, and tele-communications. No modern technology we use is without a Japanese component or foundation. It is incredible to recognize what this island has produced. We are all a product of Japan, in one or more ways. To be here is in some respects a technology mecca, a return to the source of so much of what we take for granted.

I was thinking back to fourth or fifth grade in Columbus, Nebraska. Sony released the first Walkman, a portable music player unlike anything the world had seen. Small, about 4x the total volume of the cassette tape itself, and affordable. At the time, I was using a stand-up, single-speaker cassette player I purchased from the local Coast-to-Coast. It was bomb-proof but required 4 “D” cell batteries to run for a few hours, if I recall correctly.

evolution of tech, LCD glass And over the years, the Walkman evolved into a smaller, more compact, lighter cassette player until it was barely larger than the cassette itself. When DVDs came ’round, we started all over again with seemingly cumbersome portables that skipped tracks when we jogged, evolving into smaller, more reliable devices. Now we have solid-state personal entertainment from a wide variety of OEMs (including Apple who is giving even Sony a serious run for its money).

It is difficult to acquire any personal entertainment or communications product without touching Japan at one level or another. If the company which manufactures the product is not Japanese, it is likely there are Japanese components much as there are components from China, Taiwan, or assembly in Mexico. Half of my brother’s professional video gear is made in Japan. My portable microphone is a Sony and digital recorder Panasonic. My home entertainment system is built around a PS3, Yamaha amplifier, and Toshiba LCD screen. All three of my cars have been Subaru (soo-BAH-roo). Come full-circle to the first Japanese product which I owned, my latest cellphone is a Sony-Ericsson Walkman.

In much the same way that I enjoy driving through the bay area of California, the headquarters of famous dot com companies such as Yahoo! right along side the road, I have enjoyed a similar experience in Tokyo in addition to the more cultural tangibles food, hot springs, a weekend at a traditional ryokan, and bouldering with the local climbers.

Last week I heard a quote, “If you want to look into the future, visit Tokyo.”