Headphones, on — World, off

Plato once said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” Very true, is it not? Music is a beautiful world unto itself. Happy or sad, frustrated or angry, music is our friend in need.

Recently, as I walked into a room filled with students, I noticed how all of them were busy with their phones. Not surprised, I continued to observe each of them keenly. Most of them were busy listening to music through their headphones, which made them feel motivated, energized or even nostalgic. What surprised me though, wasn’t the power of music, but the power of headphones, that transported each of them into a magical world of their own. I thought about how lucky we are to have an option to listen to the music we love the most as loud as we want, to help us submerge into deeper thinking; all because of a blessing we forget to appreciate– our headphones.

The history behind this invention is a rather interesting one. In their early days, headphones were in the form of a stethoscope, to hold against one ear and communicate– the thought of which seems extremely funny now. The first proper headset was invented by Nathaniel Baldwin in his kitchen. Though it was at first rejected by many private investors, it later served as an important tool of communication for the U.S Navy. In 1958, the revolutionary headphones, Koss SP3 Stereophones with perfect sound quality, were invented by John Koss as he wanted to rent it to the patients of the Milwaukee hospital. Initially, Koss was thrilled to hear about a ‘binaural audio tape’ from a friend and wanted to test it through a pair of military grade headphones. Motivated and determined to make it easily available to the public, he developed ‘private listening systems’: the Koss Model 390 phonograph,– for the music meant to be heard through a phonograph — speaker and headphone jacks.

Over time, there have been a lot of improvements of this design as well as their audio quality. The launch of Walkman Headphones and MDR-3L1 by Sony in the 90’s introduced lightweight portable music players and headphones, with close-fitting ear-pads for better sound quality. In 1978, after being unable to hear anything from his headphones on a flight due to external noise, Dr. Amar Boss realised this importance of noise control and decided to better the experience of headphones for the public and invented the first noise-reduction headset, designed for the aviation industry. As years passed by, the need for lightweight, smaller and portable earphones began trending; in 2001, Apple introduced the Ipod with its distinctive and unique white earplugs, which attracted the public so much that soon, “it had shipped 600 million sets of the first generation of earbuds — that’s roughly one for every 12 people on the planet.” Soon in 2008, Dr.Dre came up with Beats, giving headphones a new definition and turning them into fashion statements by recruiting celebrities like Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga  to endorse the products. Since then, various headphones improvements can be noticed from the launch of Seinnheiser’s Orpheus —  currently the world’s most expensive earphones — to the present 21st century wireless and bluetooth headphones.

Due to our intelligence and will to create, we are now able to provide ourselves with every luxury we desire.  Headphones are our blessing in disguise, helping us to move away from the world full of noise and distortion and thus allowing us to walk on the path of self discovery, or simply being a stress buster whenever we need. It’s really difficult to visualize a world without headphones.

Picture source: Live science

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