Just before we went to press Sony announced that it was discontinuing production of its Walkman cassette player in the same week that Panasonic said it would no longer make its Technics SL-1200 direct-drive turntable. One of these iconic audio products disappearing would be hard enough, but two in one week? The shock, the horror! After all, both products have been around in one version or another for almost 40 years. As it turned out, Sony’s announcement was Pythonesque (He’s not dead, he’s just resting…) because it transpired that Sony would simply be outsourcing Walkman cassette player production (to China) so you’ll still be able to buy one if you want, just not one made in Japan by Sony itself. So I guess the question is: Why would you want one at all? The Walkman holds a special place in my heart because I was in Japan when it was released and famously predicted that it would be a flop outside that country. I based that opinion partly on the fact that I didn’t think consumers outside Japan would be prepared to commute (much less walk down the street!) whilst wearing earphones, no matter how conveniently the new machine provided access to your music collection. But it wasn’t just the headphones: I also disliked the sound quality. The wow and flutter levels of the original Walkman cassette players were so high that I just could not endure listening to piano music with one. (Pop music—at least pop sans piano—was bearable…just.) Needless to say, the Walkman went on to become world-famous and Sony sold zillions of them, making its name a household word in the process. I’d like to say this was the only time one of my predictions has ever been wrong, but this would not be true. I also famously predicted that it would not be possible for consumers to record and store their own movies in a digital format! (But my predictions concerning the Elcaset, V2000, the MiniDisc, and DCC were spot-on!) But I digress, and the question remains: Why, in 2011, would you want to buy a cassette Walkman? In Australia, where almost everyone has access to a computer, owns a mobile phone, has a solid-state MP3 player of one sort or another—and MP3 recorders are inexpensive—there would seem to be no reason at all. However, in less-developed countries, perhaps there are some reasons to prefer old-fashioned tape over solid state. But I can’t think of any. If you can, email me at hifi@nextmedia.com.au.

Demerit Points for Loud Car Stereos

In a last-ditch effort to avoid losing the upcoming State election, the NSW government has overhauled the demerit points system. Originally, the very sensible idea was simply to increase the points you could accrue before losing your licence from 12 to 13. This was sensible. However, they also took the opportunity to muck around with the points system itself, with the result that you now lose only a single point for driving in bus lane. Where the hi-fi interest comes in is that they still have not removed the points penalty for playing your car stereo too loud: it’s still TWO demerit points. This particular penalty is ridiculous and illogical for any number of reasons, the most important of which is that if the point of the fine is that the loud music prevents you from hearing emergency vehicles, it should be illegal for people with impaired hearing to drive… and it’s not: even completely deaf people are allowed to hold a driver’s licence in NSW. So if you think hearing-impaired people should not be allowed to drive, vote Labor in the upcoming election!