Pre-iPod Shiny Plastic Earbud
Some time ago, we ran a story comparing an iPod to a Lloyd's portable 8 track player from the 70's, but we left out a crucial component. The headphones. While the Lloyd's unit sports a spiffy speaker, the iPod relies on the included shiny white earbuds that quickly became as much of a status symbol as the iPod itself. Apple has been a pioneer in making technology stylish and fun, no doubt, but I've never liked their smug marketing. From some Apple ads, it's as if they feel like a piece of tech hasn't been invented until they "reinvent" it.
So I'm here to tell you that I was listening to music through a shiny white (-ish) earbud decades ago. On long car trips, I remember taking along a tape recorder I'd found in the alley with an open air cassette dub I'd made of the ZOOM cast album (told you it was a long time ago...). My folks didn't abide "that kind" of music (especially the ZOOM kids' version of Octopus's Garden, which as you can imagine was pretty hardcore...), so I had to keep it on the downlow. The only headphones we had were painful & bulky with hollow sound, so I opted for that era's version of utra-portable sound... the earphone.
These ivory colored nubs were frequently included with tape recorders and crystal radio sets. They did produce sound, though fidelity was another matter entirely. Mine has a spiffy flesh colored patch on the outside to make it look even more like geriatric tech. We even had one with a hard plastic bit that hooked behind the ear with a menacing pinch. It was designed to make you suffer for your music much more than the original artist did.
I assumed that portable sound was always going to be low quality until my cousin Paul let me listen to his Walkman's headphones in 1979. This was the first model, and even then it was an auditory revelation. Since then I've probably enjoyed more music through earbuds & headphones than any other way... though I've never used iPod earbuds. If you grew up with earphones like this one, then you are also probably reluctant to stick anything shiny and white into your ear ever again.