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The Walkman, Forty Years On

The Walkman Debut

The Walkman Debut

Today when we have unlimited songs in our pocket, we take them for granted, but forty years ago in 1979, when Sony’s first portable music player the “Walkman” debuted, a personal, portable music player was unheard of. From being a shared experience, music suddenly became a deep personal soundscape, hammering between one’s ears.

Though big by today’s standards, the Walkman was a tiny thing to behold in Japan, where it debuted, and the youth took to the funky gadget that could carry one’s music out of the bedroom, into the subway and city streets. Sony ended up selling two million Walkmans in less than two years.

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The invention of headphones
The invention of headphones

In 1910, Nathaniel Baldwin invented headphones. A prototype was sent to Lt. Comdr. A. J. Hepburn of the U.S. Navy. Hepburn tested the device and found it worked unexpectedly well to transmi...

The history of headphones
  • Until the 1950s, people used headphones almost exclusively for radio communication.
  • In 1958, John C. Koss introduced the Koss SP3 Steroephones along with a portable phonograph to patients in Milwaukee hospitals that proved revolutionary because their sound quality made them optimal for listening to music.
  • 1979: The Sony "Walkman" created a need for a portable headphone and a lightweight set of MDR-3L2 headphones was included with the portable cassette player.
  • In 1978, Dr. Amar Bose, while on a flight, tried an early set of electronic headphones used for passenger entertainment. But the cabin noise made it impossible to hear anything. He returned to Boston and investigated how ambient noise could be reduced with active noise cancellation.
  • In 1989, the Noise Reduction Technology Group introduced the first noise-reduction headset, designed for the aviation industry.
Portable headphones
  • Portable headphones became smaller and eventually lead to earbuds and in-earphones.
  • In 2001 Apple introduced the iPod, and later iPhone and iPad, comes with a set of white earbuds.
  • 2008. Hip hop artist and producer Dr. Dre and Interscope Chairman Jimmy Iovine launched Beats by Dr. Dre to help solidify headphones as a fashion statement.
  • 2011. Sennheiser, a German headphone company, released 300 sets of the Orpheus headphones and an audio show in South Korea. A set was priced at 30,000 Euros, or roughly $41,000.
  • 2012. The launch of the iPhone 5 started a new era of headphone design, the EarPod, designed to direct sound right into the ear.
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Innovation at work

When you look at great geniuses like Newton, for example, it can be easy to imagine that their ideas and work came exclusively out of their minds. But that is seldom how it works.

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The "Not invented here" syndrome
'Not invented here syndrome' is a term for situations when we avoid using ideas, products, or data created by someone else, and instead develop our own even if it is more expensive, time-consuming, and of lower quality.
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Creating a new solution may be more exciting, but new solutions create new problems.
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    • Write down the end goal.
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    Steve Jobs

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