Over at Gizmodo, Lyle Owerko has a nice overview of the history of the boombox. Today, most of us listen to music in the privacy of our own heads. In the heyday of the Boombox, listening was a much more social experience.
Today, when you think that the iPhone is the best thing to happen to music and communication ever, remember that twenty-five years ago playing your music was a public phenomenon. We blasted our favorite jams and drowned out the competition, or went to a party and rocked it with a few tapes, a big radio, and maybe even decks plugged into it. That was how we injected the public sphere with music and soul, back in the day.
Times have changed. Now, the public sphere with the loudest volume is made up of websites like Twitter and Facebook. The music has gone almost completey private.
There is some evidence that the mass migration to headphones is doing some serious damage to our ears. But as the music turns inward, we’re losing something in terms of our social interactions as well.
For a more complete take on the rise of portable music players (and how we’re now actually using our musical devices to reconnect), see Walkman to Facebook: How Tuning Out Led to Tuning In.