Lifestyle Townguide

Headphone hysteria and the man who broke the law for Walkman rights

People hijacking an entire sensory input with wearable technology? In public!? Not 2013 and Google Glass. It was 1980 and the Walkman.

People forget how shocking it was to see headphones being worn in public before the Walkman was born. The headphones on the Sony device were 17% the weight of other headphones, not 17% lighter, 17% the weight—which meant for the first time it was practical to carry them and wear them in public.

As the Walkman proliferated, so did ridicule and concern about how they would affect society. We don’t think about it like this now but people were essentially augmenting their realities with whatever sounds they wanted, this was as shocking then as Google Glass seemed in 2014. Instead of people augmenting their visual reality, they were augmenting their audio reality.

One CBS newscaster in 1982 said she could understand a lot of people seeing headphone wearing “as an offense to common humanity.”


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