But none of it means anything. It’s just stuff that happened. Nostalgia is a dangerous siren song. It’s the reason every other Hollywood blockbuster is a remake, and new bands still sound like The Human League. No one in their right mind seriously believes that a technology that regularly required you to jam a pencil into it to retrieve tangled tape is preferable to what we have now – a miraculous gadget that carries your entire record collection in a sleek white box.
There are other reasons to resist romanticising the Walkman. It’s a relic of a time when major labels, rather than technology companies, controlled formats as well as music. It’s also a symbol of their collective myopia. In Steve Knopper’s book, Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age, the author shows how labels were offered the chance to embrace MP3 technology, to own it in the same way they had cassettes and CDs. But they turned it down. Cue iTunes, the iPod, and a decade of Apple dominance.