Why have we become wireless?

Being restrained by a wired device is something annoying, limiting and inconvenient so why use wires? That’s the approach many people have taken, specifically for wireless earbuds. These earbuds are designed to use Bluetooth connections to play audio from your device without the need of traversing a wire. Some examples include the Apple Airpods, Jabra 64T and the Samsung Buds.

Here is the history of the earbuds. In 1840 Charles Grafton Page discovered that passing an electric current through a coil would play a sound, which later Innocenzo Manzetti theorised could be used to create a telephone. It wasn’t until 1854 that Charles Bourseul designed the first telephone which Johann Philipp Reis used to create the Reis Telephone. This was tested by a Thomas Edison prior to bidding for a contract with Alexander Graham Bell. Here there are some conflicts on who actually created the first telephone as most people recognise the success as being with Alexander Graham Bell.

The plot thickens though, at the same time in 1854, Antonio Meucci also invented a communication device however using a separate design to Johann Philipp Reis. It was later published albeit unconfirmed that Antonio Meucci invented the device that would use an electromagnet to move a diaphragm creating a signal. This signal would be the sound passed through the wires connecting the earpieces. At this point we have the first designs of the headphone that were used in 1910 by Nathaniel Baldwin to create the first telephone earpiece. Prior to this the first hearing aids were created which in later years built on the premise for wireless earbuds.

The first hearing aids were created in 1913 by Siemens and later enhanced in 1920 by Earl Hanson to reduce the weight and make it portable. This was a wearable device that was wired to the earpieces however during World War 2 new advances in this field help miniaturise the headphones further helping lead the way to fully wireless devices. In 1982 the City University of New York started to use radio transmitters in the hearing aids to link to a device on the person without the need of additional wires.

During the development of the wireless earbud, Beyerdynamic created the first dynamic headphones purely designed to listen to high fidelity music. This was completed in 1937 and later worked upon by John Koss who created the first headphones designed for music. By 1970 the first wireless headphones were created using the same technology the City University of New York miniaturised for use in the wireless hearing aids. By 1999 Bluetooth version 1.0 had been invented which allow streaming of audio between two or more devices.

At this point the technology needed to create a miniaturised earphone that could connect to multiple devices had been invented. By 2000 the first mobile phone and earpiece using Bluetooth technology had been invented and by 2004 the first Bluetooth enabled stereo headphone had been invented and brought to market.

Now in 2019 we have a variety of different earphones and headphones available with the latest and greatest tech, and it only took 180 years. Who know what will happen in the next 180 years and whether or not we would have made the same improvements? It’s strange to think that by listening to your music through wireless earbuds harbour as much history as they do.

To read more about how wireless technology has influenced Microsoft devices, check out this blog about the Microsoft Surface Headphones: