When I was a kid, I'm not sure how old, I got a little red Panasonic RQ-44A cassette player for Christmas. I learned about design, music, and even audio engineering on it. I still kind of miss it.
It's hard to remember, but Panasonic, like Sony, used to have really great design. Its products were marvels of simplicity and function. My little red rocker was no different. It had nothing more than the basics, but everything worked, and everything was easy enough to be operated by an eight year old. Even at that young age, I remember marveling at how well it all fit together, at the lack of protruding edges or buttons. I think it more or less prepped me for my first Walkman, and later the iPod.
I used to spend hours lost in music, sitting on the floor in my room with headphones on. At first, I mostly listened to my parents music. I'd listen to The Beatles and Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones and Queen. That gave way to my own music, Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar. I also began to record on it. I figured out that you could tape over or plug the top-side gaps in cassettes, and re-record your own audio over commercial releases. For an only child, bored out of his skull half the time, this was heaven. It gave me both creative inputs and outputs. I used it all the way until I was in high school. I loved it.
I don't get gadgets for Christmas anymore. Given my job, nobody is going to buy me one. But even if I did, I'm not sure anything would ever top that Christmas present, given sometime in the early 80s.
Thanks mum and Dad. I love you.