Why Max's WM-8 Walkman on Stranger Things is a Pain to Repair
The DMs started rolling in before I even realized Season 4 of Stranger Things had come out. We started getting daily questions about re-stocking Walkmans, and specifically the Walkman — the WM-8 — that Max has clipped to her belt in nearly every scene. After finally watching the first episode, I was hooked too and started digging around to see if we had any here at Retrospekt.
We have a ton of Walkmans and other cassette players stashed away in storage. It's not that we can't repair them, the limitation is in the amount of replacement parts available. If an internal piece (which are often plastic and therefore brittle) is broken, we have to find donor parts from another model. And as you can probably guess, taking two (or three, or four) to yield one working unit isn't a very sustainable process. So we often let certain models accumulate until we have enough of them to invest in R&D and sourcing replacement components.
For the WM-8, the consistently failing component is the rewind (REW) mechanism. I had to chat with Bryan, our Head of Repairs, to understand this better. In his professional opinion, the drive assembly was designed in a way that facilitates an early failure of the rewind function as certain parts age. In his words:
"When the REW button is pressed, an idler tire is swung into position to bear against the flywheel and reverse the direction of the tape travel. Problem is, that idler tire mechanism is also attached to the reel sprocket claw via a belt. If the belt is too tight, the idler tire cannot travel the appropriate distance to interact with the flywheel. Too loose, and there is not enough tension on the belt to drive the reverse claw. Very goldilocks in nature; since belts tend to stretch as they are used and age, this makes this function of the player susceptible to early failure, even soon after servicing."
Since our goal is to refurbish items for another lifetime of use, the knowledge that repaired models could soon fail if the belts loosened (which will happen by nature of use), we have been hesitant to sell these until we can be more confident in their longevity.
But hey, we are excited about Stranger Things too, and sometimes this is just the spark of inspiration we need to lurch forward and come up with innovative ideas to solve a problem. Until then, our WM-8s will stay with us in the shop.