The history of headphones began in the late 1800’s as they were used in telephone companies by operators. The cumbersome piece of equipment was only one earpiece and rested on the shoulder. A short time later, technology known as an electrophone made its debut mostly in the homes of the wealthy. It looked similar to a stethoscope and was very expensive. However, it enabled people to connect to a switchboard operator and listen in to musical events such as an opera.
More modern headphones were invented in 1910 by Nathaniel Baldwin. They had the same basic cup design as is in large headphones today and Baldwin sold them to the United States Navy after constructing them in his own kitchen. In the 1930’s, Beyerdynamic’s DT-48s were the first dynamic headphones and began the revolution of how people listened to music.
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After World War Two, improvements in headphone design progressed closer to what we see today. The first stereo headphones were invented in 1958 with the Koss SP-3 headphones, as created by John Koss. These headphones were a huge improvement in sound quality, even though they weighed a good two pounds. Koss’s design remained popular for the next few decades and continued to make improvements. In the 1960s, Koss designed a pair of headphones known as the Beatles phones, which featured images of the popular band. The phones quickly sold out and remain an important piece of Beatlemania.
In the 1980’s and on into the 1990’s, the Sony Walkman further revolutionized not only headphones, but the way people listened to music period. The Walkman was a portable music player that played cassette tapes and included headphones with each unit. The earbud style headphone was also introduced in this decade, but it never really took off until years later with the invention of the iPod.
The iPod and its subsequent mirrors were much like the Walkman in that they revolutionized the way people listened to music. These players featured digital music in a small unit with equally small and sleek earbuds. However, despite the switch to smaller listening devices and earbuds, 2010 saw the return of larger headphones promising high sound quality and noise canceling abilities.
The Evolution of the Headphone
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