I remember my first Walkman fondly. I was enthralled by the very notion: portable music. I had no idea at the time, but the Sony Walkman was only the beginning. It would, single-handedly, come to revolutionize the way people listened to music.

On a family trip, everyone could listen to their own music. At the gym, everyone could work out to their favorite tunes. On the bus, at work, at the supermarket, you name the place-people had their Walkmans, and usually, a slew of their favorite cassette tapes as well.

And then there were CDs. Which lead to Discmans. Which recreated the familiar scene of two objects: the music player used to listen to the music, and the device in which the music was stored (in this case, a compact disc).

Nowadays, when I think about CDs, I question the genius involved. Discmans, although a step up in sound quality and technology, are generally bulky and awkward to carry. If you’ve ever used one for any extended period of time (especially if you intended to exercise while using it) you know that it is difficult to secure, all too easy to open, and once again, clumsy and inelegant to wear. CDs themselves are easier to damage and more expensive than cassette tapes. In general, the whole situation makes one wonder who was manning the portable-music-ship at the time.

Ah, finally MP3 players. At last, a device that incorporates both elements (player and music component) needed for portable music, thus eliminating the need to haul your tape/CD cases around with you. Apple’s iPod clearly leads the pack in this category. Now, when looking back at Walkmans and Discmans, their bulk and impracticability are further amplified by the sleek design of most MP3 players. For example, the iPod Shuffle is advertised visually in a way not unlike that of fine jewelry.

What does the future hold for portable music? Considering the evolution thus far, we can gather simply that whatever it brings will be smaller and increasingly easier to use.

All in all, the portability of music was a progressive movement. The digital music of MP3 players has emerged, victorious over the once ubiquitous tape and CD players. Leaders like Apple recognize the value of portable music that lives up to the expectation of true portability: a lightweight and simple, yet elegant design without compromising functionality in the slightest.

Little by little, technology listened to the people, and as a result, it’s now the people that are listening to technology.