We may earn a commission if you make a purchase through one of our links. The LA Times editorial staff was not involved in the creation of this content. Learn more

The Evolution of Portable Music Players

The Evolution of Portable Music Players

The combination of smartphones, streaming services, and wireless headphones have made music more accessible than ever before. Freedom to play music on the go and on demand began with the first Walkman in 1979. For a history of how music playing went from the phonograph in the 1800s to the Apple ipod, check out our quick list below.

The Phonograph

Thomas Edison created the phonograph in 1877, which is also known as the gramophone or record player. Instead of going to a live performance, music could now be listened to from the comfort of your own home. In 1896, the phonograph was released to the market.

The Transistor Radio

In 1954, the first transistor radio was created. The transistor radio, unlike the phonograph, was tiny and used batteries instead of a power connection. The pocket-sized transistor radio was trendy, as it enabled individuals to listen to music on the go.

The Cassette Tape Player

In 1963, Phillips invented and released the cassette tape player in the market. The cassette player was smaller and included buttons for start and stop, fast forward, and other functions. It was a smaller and more portable version of the transistor radio that played music. They also made the first mix of cassettes possible.


A boombox is a gadget that can receive radio stations and play recorded music (usually cassettes or CDs, usually at a high volume). The best boombox is constructed with two or more integrated loudspeakers to deliver a full sound. Many versions may also record audio from the radio and other sources onto cassettes.

The CD Player

In 1982, the first CD player was introduced. A CD player was more accessible to travel with than the cassette player, despite being larger and less portable. The most significant difference from earlier music players was that the CD player for home offered a more permanent alternative. It was also an improvement over the cassette tape player, as it generated higher quality sound and was more durable. Music could be paused and played without wearing out the medium.

The MP3 Player

In 1997, the first MP3 player was introduced. The MP3 player was unlike any previous music player that had come before it. The MP3 player was more compact and portable than the CD player for home. Headphones could be used to make the environment more private and silent. This device's purpose is to allow you to listen to music while moving. Because of the lack of reciprocating parts, MP3 players were also naturally skip-resistant, instantly endearing them to joggers and exercise enthusiasts.

The Apple iPod

Early MP3 players weren't much more than a novelty, but Apple changed the entire industry when it introduced the iPod in 2001. It immediately stood out in the market due to its sleek design, intuitive interface, and large (for the time) capacity, and became the go-to portable music player for an entire generation.

Since then, the iPod touch and iPhone series from Apple have radically transformed the music player market. In 2007, the first iPod touch was released on the market. Since it had a touch screen instead of buttons, it was considerably easier to use. The screen-based interface also opened up new possibilities in the form of downloadable apps, making these devices much more than a simple music player.

The Bottom Line

Since the introduction of increasingly portable music players, we believe current smartphones will evolve dramatically over the next 20 years. While players themselves have evolved, so too have important accessories, such as bluetooth headphones. The possibilities for music player inventions seem endless. There may even be technologies that can implant music within our bodies and play it based on our emotions - who knows where the future will take us?

bestcovery team.jpg
Our research team searches out the best of everything so that you can confidently pick the perfect products and services for your needs.
Related Content
Go to top