Throwback gadget: Sony Walkman WM-R202

sony wmr202
Back when I started work I was obliged to do night classes in chemistry. It was tough going (partly because I wasn’t that focused) and my existing Walkman WM-24 whilst good had given up the ghost.  I decided to put what money I had towards a Sony WM-R202.

Why that model:

  • It could record reasonably well which I convinced myself would be handy for lectures. It was not up to a Pro Walkman standard as the Dolby circuit fitted was for playback only. (I couldn’t afford the professional grade WM-D6C at the time and they weren’t the kind of device that you could easily fit in a pocket either. They were big and substantial.)
  • It had a good reputation for playback. Not only did it have Dolby B noise reduction and auto reverse on cassette playback, but it held the cassette really well to its metal construction. I learned the benefits of good tape cassette fit in a rigid mechanism the hard way. I had got hold of a WM-36 which on paper looked better than my previous Walkman with Dolby NR and and a graphic equaliser, but hand to keep the door closed with an elastic band. It was a sheep dressed up as a wolf
  • Probably the biggest reason was that it intrigued me being not much larger than an early iPod and was crafted with a jeweller’s precision. It was powered by a single AA battery or a NiCd battery about the size of a couple of sticks of chewing gum. It looked sexy as hell in in a brushed silver metal finish.

Whilst the buttons on the device might seem busy in comparison to software driven smartphones it was a surprisingly well designed user experience. None of them caught on clothing, the main controls fell easily to hand and I can’t remember ever having to use the manual.

What soon became apparent is that you needed to handle it very carefully to get cassettes in and out. I used to carefully tease the cassettes in and out. Despite my care one day it stopped working.  Given that mine lasted about two weeks, I am guessing that mine was a lemon and that the build quality must have been generally high as you can still see them on eBay and Yahoo! Auctions in Japan.

Since mine gave out well within a warranty period, I look it back to the shop and put the money towards a Sony D-250 Discman instead.

Here’s a video in Japanese done by someone selling a vintage WMR-202 on Yahoo! Auctions which shows you all the features in more depth.

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Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week

The soundtrack to my week was this three hour programme on the music of jazz musician Thelonius Monk

Only Japan could successfully leverage a much loved children’s TV and comic book character to try and reduce syphilis infections. It was interesting to hear that the creator of Sailor Moon was a pharmacist who saw the urgency and need. Quartz alludes to Shinjuku – the entertainment district being the epicentre. It has seen an increase in foreign sex tourism from other Asian markets driven by a larger middle class (cough, cough China).

Great short film by the Wall Street Journal about obsessive Japanese Hi-Fi buffs

A Uniqlo campaign is always something that I look forward to and Uniqlo Danpan is no exception

Interesting effort to move the discussion on around the Volkswagen brand from dieselgate

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that have made my day this week

This week I have been listening to classic Japanese pop from the 1970s and 1980s – late Shōwa era for the win!

Canada’s tourism board has been running a campaign in Japan. They got the studio behind anime blockbuster ‘Your Name’ to do this 30-second spot

The Isle of Dogs marries anime with Wes Anderson and looks amazing

Porsche have done a great piece of content marketing about conductor Herbert von Karajan’s 1970s vintage Porsche 911 RS

Expect this in every planners tool box soon – German Performance Artists Act Out Amusingly Surreal Skits for Passengers Aboard Passing Trains

The sublime world of machine learning

Scott Galloway talks about the way brands are using AI (machine learning) and the examples are very much in the background so that the impact on the customer experience won’t be apparent. In many respects this is similar to how fuzzy logic became invisible as it was introduced in the late 1980s.

The Japanese were particularly adept at putting an obscure form of mathematics to use. They made lifts that adapted to the traffic flows of people going in and out of a building and microwaves which knew how long to defrost whatever you put into it. Fuzzy logic compensated for blur in video camera movement in a similar manner to way smartphone manufacturers now use neural networks on images.

The Japanese promoted fuzzy logic inside products to the home market, but generally backed off from promoting it abroad. The features just were and consumers accepted them over time. In a quote that is now eerily reminiscent of our time a spokesperson for the American Electronics Association’s Tokyo office said to the Washington Post

“Some of the fuzzy concepts may be valid in the U.S.,”

“The idea of better energy efficiency, or more precise heating and cooling, can be successful in the American market,”

“But I don’t think most Americans want a vacuum cleaner that talks to you and says, ‘Hey, I sense that my dust bag will be full before we finish this room.’ “

More information
The Future of Electronics Looks Fuzzy | Washington Post (December 23, 1990)

Five for Friday | 五日(星期五)

Things that made my day this week:

In terms of the news agenda, the iPhone launch dominated the news. I wrote about it here and here.  This image from the Chinese internet summed everything about the launch up for me.

Chinese reaction to iPhone X

We’re in a place of innovation stuckness at the moment – we’re celebrating incremental improvements in user experiences on smartphones as transformational, they aren’t. This is a category challenge, not a vendor-specific one. Even infrastructure and component vendor Qualcomm is struggling to envision ways to move things on.

I have been mostly listening to this playlist from this years Love International Festival

And FIP Radio

Japanese group meforyouforme combining traditional Japanese culture and dance with modern tap dancing FTW


Hong Kong stars Donnie Yen and Andy Lau go back to the 1970s with Chasing the Dragon – a thriller based on real characters involved in drug smuggling and organised crime in the turbulent go-go economic boom of Hong Kong – Lee Rock (Lui Lok) was a corrupt policeman nicknamed 500 million dollar Inspector, who avoided corruption charges by moving to Canada and then Hong Kong. Crippled (or Limpy) Ho was a triad called Ng Sek-ho who rivalled the 14K triad group.  It is against the backdrop of the post-1967 riots economic boom which saw Hong Kong blow up in manufacturing and financial services. This brought rich pickings in corruption which led to the formation of the ICAC – the Independent Commission Against Corruption.