NEW YORK — The Walkman, the Sony cassette device that forever changed music listening before becoming outdated by digital MP3 players and iPods, has died. It was 31 years old. Sony announced Monday that it has ceased production of the classic, cassette tape Walkman in Japan, effectively sounding the death knell of the once iconic, now obsolete device.

NEW YORK — The Walkman, the Sony cassette device that forever changed music listening before becoming outdated by digital MP3 players and iPods, has died. It was 31 years old. Sony announced Monday that it has ceased production of the classic, cassette tape Walkman in Japan, effectively sounding the death knell of the once iconic, now obsolete device.

The Walkman is survived by the Discman (still clinging to life) and ironic music listeners who think using a Walkman in this day-and-age is charmingly out-of-touch.

It will continue to be produced in China and distributed in the U.S., Europe and some Asian countries. Digital Walkmans are also being made with models that display lyrics and have improved digital noise-canceling technology.

Still, if you're looking to chisel a date in the Walkman's tombstone, then Oct. 25, 2010, is as good as any. For many, that it's taken this long is surprising: "They were still making those?" Perhaps Oct. 23, 2001, the day the iPod was launched, is the better date of expiration.

But none of the success of Apple's portable music players would have ever happened without the cassette Walkman. Some 220 million have been sold since the first model, the TPS-L2, debuted in July 1979. (It retailed for $200.) At the time, transistor radios were portable, but there was nothing widely available like the Walkman.

Originally called the "Soundabout" in the U.S., the Walkman was an immediate sensation and a revolution in music listening.

Foremost, it was portable. Music no longer needed to be something that one experienced sitting in a room, but could be blasted on the bus, pumped while jogging or played softly while studying.

By turning the volume up, anyone could be tuned out.

The detached teenager with foam earphones slouched in the back seat or bobbing his head in the elevator became an indelible image of the '80s.

The Walkman also was the father of the mixtape. For the first time, music was something you could make yours by arranging it and swapping it.

For those young and unfamiliar with this process, making a mixtape typically entailed gathering songs by the Cure and Depeche Mode, labeling the tape with care and awkwardly giving it to a love interest in homeroom.

The Walkman didn't disappear so much as it was improved upon. Sony continues to use it as a brand, but the company long ago ceded hipness and style to Apple. The iPod likely will one day befall a similar fate, and another generation will gasp in joined wistfulness.