The History Of Headphones

We all own at least a pair of headphones. These electronic gadgets have become such an integral part of our lives that some of us even sleep with headphones on. However, this simple gadget is by no means a modern invention. It might surprise you, but the headphones have been around for over a 125 years! It all started with the earpiece that they put on the telephone. The technology developed from there and now with things like Active Noise Cancellation inbuilt, it has come a long way indeed.

Telephone Operators:

In the late 19th Century, to speak to someone, you couldn’t just dial their number and have them pick up. Yeah, when you wanted to talk to someone, you would first be connected to the operator, who would then physically switch the wire connections and then let you speak to the person you wanted to speak to. Tedious yes, but imagine the number of Telephone Operators who would be required to keep the network running. To aid them, a sort of a headphone was developed, so that they wouldn’t have to hold the earpiece to their ear all the time.

Nathaniel Baldwin’s Modern Headphones:

In the early 1910s, Nathaniel Baldwin started developing what can be considered as the first modern headphones. Upon successful development, he started selling the headphones to the US Navy, who found it very useful for their radio operators to listen to messages without the risk of being overheard. Baldwin continued manufacturing these gadgets from his home kitchen and never really thought of patenting them, paving the way for bigger companies to soon take over the business.

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The AKG K120:

In 1949, AKG, the film equipment company decided to foray into the headphones business and launched the AKG K120. It was a massive hit and sold faster than they could manufacture. Its success was so overwhelming, that AKG closed down their film equipment business and completely started focussing on building headphones.

The Sony Walkman:

The Sony Walkman changed the headphone industry completely. Since then, headphones would be bulky and heavy. However, with the introduction of the Walkman, Sony made the industry and the competition to shift towards lighter and more portable headphones. This paved the way for the introduction of in-ear headphones in the late 1980s. Post that, the mobile phone era started and headphones have never gone back to their bulky ancestors again. With the introduction of smartphones, Bluetooth headphones have come into existence, getting rid of the pesky cable from the headphone.

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