In modern times, wireless headphones have become something of a popular phenomenon – especially amongst those who enjoy listening to music while on the go.
However, while a characteristically modern trend, their origins are actually a little more historic than people might think.
But when exactly were wireless headphones invented, and how have they changed over time?
Wireless Headphones: A History
While wired headphones are known to have been around for decades – dating back to the 1880s – wireless headphones have a very modern feel to them.
However, their origins actually go back as far as the 1960s – something that might come as a shock for many people.
Wireless Headphones – 1960s
In the 1960s, one of the first pairs of headphones were invented and sold – allowing the users to listen to music long before things like Bluetooth were even invented. But how exactly did they work?
While these headphones were (generally speaking) made for the same purpose as they are today, they were not actually connected to a music playing device as our modern systems are (such as a phone or iPod).
In actuality, the first wireless headphones were essentially radio receivers, which used antennas on either side to allow the wearer to pick up and tune into their favorite radio stations while on the go – allowing them to listen to music in the same way we commonly do in the modern day.
You might be familiar with the image of these early wireless headphones – giving the wearer a strange appearance that resembled something from early science fiction.
While very successful at the time, they weren’t without their share of problems, and we can only thank our lucky stars that things have improved since then.
The Birth Of ‘Bluetooth’
The first ever pair of wireless headphones that could be considered familiar to us in the present day, were produced by Bluetooth in 1999.
Allowing the wearer to connect to their music device and listen to music without the need for cables, this proved to be a popular product, and really did change the way we consume music on the go.
However, while popular, early Bluetooth headphones were not without their problems – namely connectivity issues, a lack of signals, and a lack of general understanding about the processes involved.
The Age Of ‘Apple’
There were numerous adaptations and changes that were made throughout the ensuing decades – each building and crafting the world of wired and wireless headphones to suit an ever growing demographic of customers who wanted to listen to their music while on the go.
However, it wasn’t until the arrival of the iPod in the 2000s, and the other associated products produced by Apple during this time, that things really started to change in a big way.
After a string of successful models throughout the 21st century, it wasn’t until 2016 when the wireless earbuds were released to a salivating customer base – pretty much perfecting the shortcomings of the past, and creating a streamlined product that was as stylish as it was user friendly.
What Were The Problems With Earlier Models?
While wired headphones had been around in one form or another since the 1880s – where they had been used for all manner of things, ranging from military applications to wireless radio receivers – wireless headphones were still few and far between, and there were numerous problems and hurdles that limited their development.
Lack Of Bluetooth
Prior to the invention of Bluetooth in the 1990s, the limitations of wireless headphones were obvious – and in essence were limited to radio frequencies as a source of music.
This obviously reduced the sense of ‘personal music players’ that we have today, and meant that the control was still often in the hands of the radio companies – limiting wearers based on their position on the planet, and their proximity to their favorite radio stations.
The lack of Bluetooth also meant that connecting to a personal device was all but impossible at this time – something that wouldn’t change for several years afterwards.
The main problem with earlier models of wireless headphones – especially the ones that worked on radio frequencies – was that they were really large, making them both fairly cumbersome to wear when on the go, slightly strange to onlookers, and heavy during wearing.
Lack Of Freedom
Be it the radio wireless headphones, or the earlier models of the Bluetooth systems, the biggest problem was the lack of freedom that they represented – namely in the reliance on radio station proximity, or the strength of the Bluetooth signal.
This is only really an issue when we look back in hindsight – as prior to their invention the people were not used to wirelessness as a concept. However, it does highlight how far we have come, and the freedom that wireless technology affords us daily.
Are There Still Problems To Overcome?
Despite the widespread use of wireless headphones, the process is still far from perfect.
One of the last hurdles that needs to be overcome is the bandwidth that using wireless technology requires – and the toll that this can have on battery life and internet data usage.
These things are continuously being worked on, but for the moment, they still represent substantial limitations to the efficacy of wireless headphones in general, on the go use.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about wireless headphones, and when they were actually invented.
It is certainly true that wireless headphones are popular in modern times – offering us a way to listen to music discreetly and comfortably, without the hindrance of long trailing cables.
However, as this article shows, their origins are a lot more complicated and storied than you might first think.
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