It is safe to consider headphones a household item: mass produced, and almost every American has a pair. Headphones are so common nowadays, in fact, they are even included in the most new purchases of mobile devices. On average, Americans spend more than 32-hours weekly listening to music. This is roughly equivalent to a full-time job. Saying this, dissecting the history and future of headphones is relevant to almost everyone in the digital era.
Britain made history in 1895 with the invention of the Electrophone. With a subscription of 5 Euros per year (equivalent to 631.14 Euros annually in 2018), the Electrophone allowed subscribers to listen in to live performances over their personal phone lines. The first headphones were created 15-years later in 1910 by Nathaniel Baldwin, and the first 100 pairs were sold to the U.S. Navy. Baldwin handcrafted each headset in his kitchen until the demand grew too great. Eventually, the Wireless Speciality Apparatus Company purchased manufacturing rights from Baldwin under the condition he would never increase the price of headsets sold to the Navy.
In present, headphones have evolved into the famous Monster Beats by Dr. Dre and Apple Airpods. Although their design continues to improve for convenience, performance, and comfort, their purpose remains the same for owners.
Headphones are used by many to create a sense of personal space, especially in the office. Whether or not listening to music and podcasts boosts productivity remains unclear, but most people think that it does. As offices ditch walls and cubicles in favor of the ‘open concept’ office, headphones will continue to give us back a little slice of our personal space.
Headphones are everywhere and people are using them for far more than what they were designed to do. Read more below to paint a better picture of how technology will continue to shape the future of headphones.