Personal Stereo by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow

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Personal Stereo by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow

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Category: Lifestyle
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Kate Jones
Reviewed by Kate Jones
Summary: A fascinating and informative, yet also nostalgic, look at the rise and fall of the personal stereo.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 160 Date: September 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1501322815

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These tiny 'Object Lessons', a range of books which are more like a long-form essay, explore often seemingly mundane items. Personal Stereo packs a lot of information into a small space. Split into three distinct sections: Novelty, Norm, and Nostalgia, 'Novelty' traces the origin of the Sony Walkman, from its conception by two Japanese business men to it becoming a recognised entity on the streets of America. 'Norm' follows on from the universal success of the personal stereo, relating this to the technology which it set the groundwork for, such as the ubiquitous proliferation of MP3s, the iPod, and Smartphones, leading to the eventual downfall in the popularity of the Walkman. Finally, in 'Nostalgia', Tuhus-Dubrow examines our need to hark back to a simpler time, when the personal stereo seemed the height of freedom.

The author has worked hard to make this book readable, accessible and thorough in its enquiry into the popularity and downfall of the personal stereo. It would be easy to get bogged down in an academic study of society's music listening habits. But despite thoroughly investigating these issues, Tuhus-Dubrow manages to keep the feel of the book light and engaging. It has enough information in to feel academically researched, yet is written in an easily accessible fashion.

Personally, my favourite section of the book was 'Nostalgia', as it is a far more personal and introspective look at the author's experience of owning a Walkman, together with a look at why, culturally, we seem to be harking back to simpler, more tactile gadgets, which she identifies as a reaction to the constant stimulation overload of Smartphones. She puts the Walkman in the category of being like shopping at a charming pastry shop, whilst A Smartphone is like Walmart. She goes on to claim that a Walkman was a machine for daydreaming.

Although I enjoyed the final 'Nostalgia' section, I think anybody with an interest in design, business, technology, or social and cultural history, will find the first section, 'Novelty', an interesting delve into the development of Sony as a company, its founders, and its famous Walkman.

I enjoyed this book; at 160 pages, it is ideal to take on a short journey. I shall be seeking out more of these tiny imprints.

If you liked this, you might like Bookshelf (Object Lessons) by Lydia Pyne

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Buy Personal Stereo by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Personal Stereo by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Personal Stereo by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Personal Stereo by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow at


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