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Stay in tune: The incredible story of mobile music

Joel Willans Published by Joel Willans September 03, 2012

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Stay in tune: The incredible story of mobile music

0
215

Joel Willans Published by Joel Willans September 03, 2012

These days smartphones have taken our ability to enjoy mobile music to new highs. But it wasn't always like that.

There are still people alive who remember the days when music wasn’t portable. Instead, it came from big, clunky radios the size of refrigerators, and sound systems housed in tons of varnished wood. To remind ourselves how far mobile music has come, we’ve taken a look at some key music machine firsts over the last century and a half. And believe us, it sure is one groovy kind of history.

1877: Thomas Edison invents the world’s first portable music device, the phonograph, at his lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

1889: The first jukebox is installed at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. Constructed by the Pacific Phonograph Company, it becomes an overnight sensation. Four stethoscope-like tubes are attached to an Edison Class M electric phonograph fitted inside an oak cabinet. Towels are supplied to patrons so they could wipe off the end of the tube after each listening.

1954: I.D.E.A. releases the very first ever portable transistor radio. The Regency TR-1 radio features an analog AM tuner and comes in a variety of colors, ranging from a simple bone white to pearlescent lavender and lime colors. The TR-1 tuned stations by a simple gold dial and played through a low-fidelity monophonic speaker.

1965: Swiss manufacturer, Gerinvex, launches the KB Discomatic, a completely portable self contained 40 selection record player. It becomes known as John Lennon’s Jukebox, when he fills it with his favourite records and takes it on tour with the Beatles.

1972: Andreas Pavel invents the stereobelt, the first portable audio cassette player. Pavel approaches big companies like Yamaha, Sony and Philips with his invention, but they tell him “nobody wants to walk around with headphones on their ears”.

1976: Marantz releases the Marantz Superscope, the first of what would later become known as a boomboxes. It included an AM/FM tuner, cassette recorder, and “stereo matrix” (wide effect) through its 2-way, 4 speaker system.

1979: Sony launches the Walkman built by audio-division engineer Nobutoshi Kihara for Sony co-chairman Akio Morita, so he could listen to operas during his frequent trans-Pacific plane trips. Marketed in Japan as the Walkman, in many other countries, including the US, it’s called the Soundabout. In Sweden it’s known as the Freestyle and in the UK, the Stowaway.

1984: Sony releases the first portable CD Player, the Discman D-50. The release of the D-50 sparks huge public interest in CDs as an audio format, causing the CD industry to experience dramatic growth.

1998: Eiger Labs launches the MPMan F10, the world’s first ever MP3 player. Announced at CeBIT in March as a prototype only, the device gets so much attention it is launched in May, with 32MB of internal memory. In the next few years, Diamond Multimedia, HanGo Electronics, Creative, Cowon Systems, Archos and eventually Apple all follow suit.

2006: In the first three months of the year, Nokia sells over 15 million MP3 capable mobile phones, making Nokia the world’s leading supplier of MP3 players. The Nokia 3250 is the first of the XpressMusic series of mobile phones, which goes on to sell tens of millions worldwide.

2012: Nokia launch the JBL PlayUp Portable Speaker for Nokia, the first ever mobile speaker to combine the technical expertise of both companies in one product. With one tap NFC, it delivers crystal clear sound, with a maximum of 89dB in all directions.

Which of these rockin’ innovations do you think has done the most for mobile music? As ever, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Image credit: U2canreed

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