“In the 1890s, a British company called Electrophone created a system allowing their customers to connect into live feeds of performances at theaters and opera houses across London. Subscribers to the service could listen to the performance through a pair of massive earphones that connected below the chin, held by a long rod. The form and craftsmanship of these early headphones make them a sort of remote, audio equivalent of opera glasses. It was revolutionary, and even offered a sort of primitive stereo sound. However, the earliest headphones had nothing to do with music, but were used for radio communication and telephone operators in the late 19th century.”
–”A Partial History of Headphones,” Jimmy Stamp, Smithsonian blog [link added]
Budapest’s long-running Telefon Hírmondó (“Telephone Herald”) phone newspaper preceded Electrophone. It often featured live opera performances, and seems to have used stock telephone ear speakers.
Image (“iPod Society”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com
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