Origins of ordinary things: Headphones

Listen to music at deafening volume without disturbing other people’s peace. Receive a phone call without putting your phone to your ear. Block out all the surrounding noise while you study. These are some of the ways in which headphones make modern day living just a little bit easier.

Although the use of head phones is largely associated with teenagers and young adults, headphones are not necessarily a recent invention.

During the 1890s, people would hold single-sided heavy speakers to their ears in order to communicate. According to Headphone Zone, an audio device store, the heavy speakers then evolved into ear pieces.

French engineer Ernest Mercadier is credited for making the first ear pieces in 1891. They were used for telephone communication and they had earbuds which could block external noise.

The first headset for listening to music was made in Britain in the 1890s. It was called an electrophone. The electrophone was a device which looked like a stethoscope. The way it worked was that people paid annual subscription fee which allowed them to connect the electrophone to a switchboard and then tune in to live performances around London. This is according to Stuff, a lifestyle magazine.

In 1910, Nathan Baldwin an American inventor made the first successful set of headphones. According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, Baldwin made the headphones in his kitchen and then sold them to the United States Navy who used them for communication. Baldwin’s design was used to make the electricity-free telephones that were used during World War II.

All the headphones made after 1910 were used solely for communication until John C. Koss an American inventor made stereo phones in 1958. People then began to use headphones for music. According to Mashable, a media and entertainment company, Koss started his business using the cash gift he and his wife had received on their wedding to buy chairs.

In late 1970s, people began to show interest in portable devices. According to Headphone Zone, Sony an electronics company introduced the Walkman, portable stereo player with portable headphones to meet this demand. The Walkman was very popular until the early 2000s.

Originally countable in number, headphones are now in high demand. There are unspeakably expensive brands and those that are so cheap that they are sold by street vendors.

What’s even more interesting is the fact that headphones are no longer just devices for listening to music or blocking out noise. People now use them to make fashion and trend statements. Young people wear certain brands around their necks to let everyone know that they are current, cool and fashionable.