Records were great – God knows I’ve extolled their virtues on this site aplenty. However, there was a very real consumer demand for having your music on the go, beyond just your car stereo. You couldn’t exactly strap a record player to your back; you needed something portable – and companies such as Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba were only too happy to oblige.
This manifested itself in the form of the massive boom boxes of the 80s, the simple portable AM/FM radios of the 1960s and 70s, and the revolutionary Sony Walkman, and many other varieties. Let’s have a look at some advertising for these miracles of portable audio technology through the years….
This ad comes to us from June 1955. The handle is a rotating antenna!
Fast forward almost thirty years, and this is what the advertising looked like:
In 1984, Toshiba unleashes an FM radio that seemed impossibly small. They’d come a long way from 1971, when God spoke from on high, proclaiming to all mankind: “They Shall Have Music Wherever They Go”… I give unto you “The Pleasure Maker”…
Clearly implying that she got the better deal. You got stuck with the kids and a car payment, and she’s painting the town red with her bigass boom box. This is what advertising to the “Me Generation” looks like.
These suckers were expensive in 1971; a warranty was a big plus for a cassette player in 1971.
Here’s another from the same year: “It’s hi-fi to go, It’s a blast” – It’s the Bell & Howell Sound Machine!
The Yellow Submarine album demands a killer stereo – I’m not sure this portable Philips tape recorder is going to do it justice.
This advertisement from 1976 will definitely have you recalling a certain device from Ronco that similarly had you broadcasting your godawful singing voice to the masses. Yes, I’m talking about the infamous Mr. Microphone.
Oh, the many options for music on the go! The car radio was an option, as was the portable radio. But radios, of course, weren’t your music. For instance, the Frampton Comes Alive! album is just released, and all the radio stations are playing is “Baby I Love Your Way”. But you want to hear the full 14 minute version of “Do You Feel Like We Do” while you’re making out with your girlfriend in the park. What to do?
Eight-tracks were an option but the downsides were plenty. (See: The Eight-Track Miracle: 8 Reasons It Failed). Solution 2 was the cassette tape: It didn’t have the dreaded bleed-through, you could rewind them, and your car stereo didn’t have a deep and abiding hate for them. Best of all, you could buy blank cassette tapes and….. (drum roll, please)…. record your own special playlist on them! It was a miracle of technology to young music listeners of the day.
This ad from 1978 depicts fans having so much more fun with their big clunky stereos at the game. They’re not using their headphones, so I presume they are blaring their radios, irritating everyone around them.
Earth, Wind and Fire music is meant for a shoulder-held boom box.
From 1967 – “Go go-go at the worldwide discotheque open all the time”
Above: Grundig ad from 1969; Below: Grundig 1980
Roller skating and jogging became national obsessions in the late 1970s – and the portable stereo was custom made to feed the frenzy.
A couple from Germany: (L) 1970, (R) 1976
And, finally, perhaps the worst example of a portable stereo – Panasonic’s godawful “Toot-A-Loop”. The horror!