Since headphones are basically near field speakers placed over the ears, they fall into the same category, but there certainly has been a lot of evolution through the years. Cool Material recently ran a great article on the history of headphones. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to catch the full article on their site.
1881 – Way before MP3s, dubstep and premium Spotify accounts, headphones had little to do with music at all. Back in the 1880’s, the first headphones (or at least their early ancestors) were used by telephone operators. It was a single earpiece that rested on the user’s shoulder and weighed over 10 pounds (kinda like placing a boombox on your shoulder).Source
1910 – Nathaniel Baldwin began manufacturing the first modern headphones. He crafted them in his kitchen and sold them all to the U.S. Navy. This was the first time a pair of cans resembled something you’d see today. Baldwin never patented them, however, because he was an idiot. Source
1958 – John C. Koss changed the headphone game in a way that would make Dr. Dre jealous. In 1958, Koss created the first stereo headphones (Koss SP-3) and launched an all out assault on awaiting ear canals. Over the next few decades, Koss would come to dominate the headphone industry, and he would do it all without the need for a pesky college education. Source
There are more than just these examples so be sure to check out the entire article here.
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