Music has been a big part of the human history and one of the most common ways of entertainment. The oldest piece of music known so far is The Seikilos Epitaph which is probably dated from 1st to 2nd century CE.

The breakthrough, however was when the first devices that gave people the chance to listen to music anywhere came out. Music became affordable, accessible, for some even necessary.

Music was not the luxury of the rich anymore, it became part of most individuals’ daily lives and it shaped their way of living and thinking in many ways.

Music can express and cause sentiments, it’s a global language. But how did we get from large and heavy devices like the phonoautograph to streaming by just pressing a small button?

Phonoautograph – How It All Started

That is the name of the first device capable of recording sound and signals according to “The Routledge Guide to Music Technology”.

It was invented by Frenchman Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville on 1857. It recorded sound waves onto paper


or glass. That was how it kept track of the sounds it was subjected to, however, the user couldn’t replay those sounds. Quite limiting to the user on the one hand, revolutionary and groundbreaking on the other.

Phonograph – The Second Revolution

Invented in 1887, by Thomas Edison, the phonograph paved the way for the rest of music devices that came out later.

It was the first recording of human voice in history. Buying a phonograph was cheap according to several sources, however its drawbacks didn’t facilitate its use. The sound was low quality though and playback and record couldn’t be repeated.

Edison even started his own company producing phonographs for business purposes, this shows his invention was very successful (at least for the large enterprises back then!).

Gramophone – More Functions

Many confuse the gramophone with its ancestor, the phonograph, however, the gramophone was invented a little later. Credit for the invention of this device is given to Emile Berliner.

It is hard to tell which device is which from the above,Gramophone because all three words (phonoautograph, phonograph and gramophone) are used to describe the same thing (which is probably an old music – playing device to the mind of most non – experts!). The cylindrical discs were replaced with flat ones, which were more portable.

The gramophone came in the same time with jazz and it played an important role to making this genre popular among the people. Basically, the gramophone was a record playing machine.

78 RPM Discs or “78” – A New Era

Invented in 1889 – 1994, the “78” disc records became the “vintage” image of records most people have in their minds today.

A shellac – based material is the standard for producing today’s 78 RPM discs, but before that, many materials were used to optimize the performance of these discs.

Radio – From Theory To Practice

After the 1880s successful attempt to connect electricity and magnetism to electromagnetic waves, in 1890, Guglielmo Marconi is considered to be the inventor of the device that had the ability to “transport” sound waves.

Portable Transistor Radio – After A Long Long Time

After the revolutionary invention of the transistor, which is widely used in many non-music-related devices, the first portable transistor radio came into play. It was invented by I.D.E.A. in 1954.Portable Transistor Radio

It was small and portable and it enabled the massification of the radio, which is a big industry even nowadays. It created vacancies and made the music, not only accessible to everyone, but also accessible everywhere.

Portable Stereo

Gramophone, but make it fancier, more portable and better (in terms of quality). And don’t get me wrong, a gramophone surely is more vintage than the small portable stereo, however, it was a relief back then, as a gramophone took up too much space in the living room (that’s how my grandmother described it). It was invented in 1962 by Henry Kloss.

Audio Cassette Tape – A New Introduction

After the massive usage of records, cassette tapes came into play. In 1963, Phillips invented the audio cassette format which was immediately devoured by the public. One could simply record their favorite songs and listen to them anywhere. Music started being stored and replayed again and again.

8-Track Tapes – Music On Roadtrips

Of course, being able to record a song and play it anywhere is good but you know what’s better? Eight songs. Basically, theHippy Van 8-track tape had space for 8 tracks, making the music even more portable. It was the beginning of music inside the cars, making road trips a lot more exciting. They were invented in 1965.

Digital Audio Recorder – Changing The Music Making

In 1978, Sony invented the first digital audio recorder. It wasn’t the first audio recorder in history, however it had many advantages compared to its predecessors. Far from producing a clear sound, the disc produced a poor disconnected sound against a background of static and could barely be heard, according to Sony History that can be found in Sony’s website.

Walkman – Alone Time With Music

One can not bother the neighbors and jam to their favorite track at the same time. From 1979 to today, this became a reality. Another one of Sony’s groundbreaking inventions, the Walkman was initially called the “Soundabout”.Walkman

Most people have heard of this device, but for those who are unfamiliar with it, the Walkman was invented under the same concept with Portable Transistor Radio, it was also accompanied with headphones, uplifting the music experience for the crowds.

The headphones are now owned by most people, not just professionals in the music industry.

Compact Disc

Portable and less fragile, the Compact Disc (basically the CDs we all know) was introduced by Sony in 1983. It is able to store more information. Even though it was considered a breakthrough back then, the Compact Discs are now getting replaced by more convenient means of storing music and sound.

CD Player

Portable CD Player – CDs To The Public

In 1984, carrying the Compact Discs everywhere was possible. All you needed was batteries and then, you had music anywhere you went. It was the end of the era of Walkman, as the Portable CD Player was smaller and more convenient. After all, CDs were getting cheaper and cheaper, the cassettes gradually left the market, the Portable CD Player was taking over the world.

Minidiscs – How “Portable” Music Can Get?

An upgrated version of the Compact Disc, making the concept of carrying the music everywhere you go get closer to the reality. After the success with the Walman in the 80s, Sony introduced the Minidisc Format in 1992. Its capacity started from 60 minutes of digitalized audio and, the latest version could store up to 80 minutes.

MP3 Player


MP3 Player – A Lot More!

In 1998, SaeHan a Korean company, introduced the first MP3 Player to the market, under its first given name, the MPMan. All one needed was this device, music became invisible, one could say, but higher in terms of quality. That was the end of Portabeel CD Players. Music finally became a lot easier to carry around!

MP3 Players didn’t favor artists though. Soon, the Internet was overwhelmed with piratical websites to download music for free. Many long and expensive court battles were fought because of this phenomenon by famous record labels, however the damage had already been done.

This leaded to managements pressuring the artists they took after to go on more and longer tours to support the needs of those businesses.

iPod – Apple’s Heyday

In 2001, Apple invented the very first iPod, which ahd a capacity of 10GB (the most upgrated version). That was typically around 2000 songs! The device was also equipped with a mechanical scroll wheel and the user had the ability to create playlists to listen to. Later on, Apple invented new devices which offered more functions.

iPod Classic 2

This version of iPod was the first to enable touch screen for the users. It was invented around 2002-2004.

iPod Touch – No More Buttons

The later version of iPod had only two buttons (one to start the device and the home button). Apple also introduced a pen that facilitated the usage of this device. It was invented in 2008.

iPod Touch

Fully-functioning with touch screen, iPod Touch was fancier and easier to use than its predecessors.

Spotify – Listen To Ads

The Swedish company was founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek, former CTO of Stardoll, and Martin Lorentzon, co-founder of Tradedoubler. With over 75 million users today, Spotify has reached its peak, and it’s still ascending!

It is a moblie application, a portable library of music. Spotify was a relief of artists and record labels, a solution to the plague of free downloading. Now, the public listen to advertisements first, or pay monthly fees in exchange of music.



In 2016, Apple introduced the first wireless headphones, the Airpods. Smaller and easier to carry, compared to the regular headphones and more soundproof (when it comes to external sounds, obviously!). They are easier to store, since they don’t have the large wire of their predeccessors, however easier to lose too (because they are significantly smaller).


Who Knows What’s Next

Scientific research has gone too far in so little time and new inventions are introduced almost every day! Its hard to tell what the future holds, but for sure it is going to be unexpected and exciting. The evolution continues and until something better for the public and more beneficial to the artists is found, we will surely indulge in our favorite music using the devices that already exist, and that’s a lot!

All the information is part of my research from various sources of the Web, most of this information is from the Youtube Video: Evolution of Music Players 1857-2020 | History of music Players

If you agree, diagree or simply want to add anything to what I previously mentioned, please feel free to leave a comment below and I will get back at you as soon as possible.

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