In 1978, legend has it that Sony president Akio Morita decided he would like to listen to his own selections of music while flying on airplanes. He brought the idea to the company, and soon, the simple, hand-sized cassette player with lightweight headphones was out on the market.
However, Shu Ueyama of Sony cites that this invention was purely accidental. Organizational changes were taking place at Sony in 1979 and the tape recorder division was pressed to market something soon, or risk consolidation. They came up with a small cassette player capable of stereo playback. The invention was born from a tweaked Pressman (Sony's monaural portable cassette recorder) and a pair of headphones. Sony chairman and founder Akio Morita heard of the invention and was eager to market it. The final design of the TPS-L2, the personal stereo cassette player was completed on March 24, 1979.
Sony then formulated a unique marketing campaign to sell the contraption. The story behind Sony's market research was legendary: they didn't do it! Said Akio Morita in a 1982 Playboy interview, "The market research is all in my head! You see, we create markets."
But how does one convince the public they need a product that they've never owned or seen? The first step was to get the word out to people who had influence on the public, like celebrities and people in the music industry. Sony sent Walkmans to Japanese recording artists, tv and movie stars free of charge. They also began an innovative marketing campaign, targeting younger people and active folks. The Walkman was engineered carefully to make it affordable to this market, also the imagery Sony successfully used around their Walkman gave the feelings of fun, youth and most importantly, freedom. Their invention allowed one to bring an exceptional listening experience anywhere.