Everything You Wanted to Know About the History of the Portable Music Player..And Stuff You Didn't

That thing’s going to break by accident…in less than a month.

Those were the words I replayed in my mind after seeing the newly introduced (at the time) third-generation iPod Nano. Instead of just simply picking up a tall, sleek light blue iPod, I was stuck with the latest addition that looked like it turned 80 years old, gained back pains and shrunk in stature. Size is important when it comes to purchasing an mp3 player. If you buy one that’s extremely small, there’s a higher risk of accidentally damaging it. If you buy one that’s a bit too big, there’s a high risk of the fashion police catching you and sending you straight to jail.

But if you took a look back at history, size didn’t matter when it came to portable music players. Technology wasn’t advanced as it is now and companies didn’t care if they sold hideous products. The following is a brief recap and analysis of some of the popular portable music players that defined generations and also gave us the ability to listen to our favourite songs.

Prehistoric Times

The Transistor Radio; the first practical transistor that made any significant profits was the Regency TR-1. Officially announced on October 18, 1954 by the Regency Division of I.D.E.A. (Industrial Development Engineering Associates of Indianapolis), the radio was sold for $49.95. Since money had an extremely different value back then, the Regency TR-1 wasn’t noticed until the price was dropped in early 1960s.

With its standard 22 ½ volt battery and 12-ounce size, the simple AM radio took off as its popularity soared. People enjoyed listening to the radio, whether to hear news broadcasts or to simply dance to the beat of their favourite musician. The Regency TR-1 was also one of the first technological devices to be thought of as a fashion accessory. Though originally starting out with four, the radio was soon available in 11 different colours including pink and jade green.

Little do people know about the influence the transistor radio has had on consumer electronics. After noticing the success of the Regency TR-1, a new company named Sony decided to make their own model. Their success eventually led to a new device years later that would skyrocket to fame.

The Invention That Made You Cooler Than Cool

The Boombox; the first boomboxes were introduced by various companies in the late 1970s’. Their popularity didn’t soar until the 1980s’ when they were introduced through music videos and television segments that dealt with hip hop culture and breakdancing. Once people started showing interest in the portable music system, major manufacturers began to make the biggest, loudest and flashiest boomboxes ever.

The Boombox itself was simply a portable stereo system that had two or more loudspeakers, an amplifier, a radio tuner and a cassette player. The invention was very successful at the time because of the rising interest in cassettes. But nobody realized that something smaller and even cooler was about to arrive.



The Innovations That Created The Word “Sporty”

The Walkman and Discman; since turning into a popular brand name, Sony was ready to dive into the market again with a new invention. A cassette-based music player, the Walkman became a mainstream success. Its popularity was so great that it even forced rival companies to create their own version of the portable music player to remain competitive.

The main aspect of the walkman is that it was marketable. The thought ofhaving a personal music player that could play your favourite cassette tapes was ingenious. Soon commercials and even networks like MTV were showcasing the device to help promote their business.

However, the craze stopped once a new digital medium called the compact disc was introduced. Surprisingly, 1986 (not the early 90s’) was when the first Discman was introduced. Since the public was eager to hear the “perfect sound of a CD”, Discman sales went up, while the walkman steadily declined.

Both portable music players are still around though. Many companies and electronic stores have advanced versions of walkmans and Discmans for sale. The interest isn’t as high as it used to be, but they’re still nostalgic devices that can bring back memories. The reason they are classified as “nostalgic” is because of the innovation that most people use now as a portable music player.

Going Extremely Digital On Us All

The mp3 player; the first of its kind was in fact not the iPod. The “Godfather of mp3 players” was introduced in March 1998. Containing 32 MB of storage, Saehan’s MPMan F10 had the capability to hold ten songs. Even though the mp3 player doesn’t seem like much, it seemed to give companies new ideas in terms of creating portable music players. For example, just look at the organization named after a fruit.

Apple released their very first mp3 player on October 23, 2001. The iPod had the ability to play several different audio formats, could hold up to 1000 songs and had a user-interface you could scroll around with all day. Since becoming a mainstream success, there have been 13 different variations of the iPod to this date, including the iPod mini, iPod nano, iPod shuffle and iPod touch.

The one incredible benefit consumers have gained from portable music players is having the opportunity to listen to music. Each unique design and innovation has astonished music lovers throughout the decades. That alone has driven companies and manufacturers to compete with one another and advance technology. But you can’t forget the other great feature portable music players have given individuals over the years.

Which is simply, being able to look cool with an electronic device.

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Jun 21, 2008
by Anonymous

man that was great only

man that was great only thing i saw was that you missed the fact of how now music players are able to play music VIDEOs with things such as the ipod video or even other brands like creative zen's

Jun 22, 2008
by Anonymous

Flash usb Stick

How about flash memory USB Sticks?
I think they played a great role for those not able to afford a trendy iPod.
While reading this article, I had the impression that iPod is the only solution for now to listen to music.
I m not too sure if iPod was the first hard disc drive or at least memory support based mp3 player.
How about miniDisc solutions? They may not did the breakthrough but they existed!
So, to me, it s not "Everything about the History" but probably "Main steps in the history of portable music"

I am criticizing, but what is in this article was still informative to me!
Keep on this way!


Jan 6, 2009
by Anonymous


this was realy helpful.. hope you don't mind if I use this for research material.