Dead Tech: The Bone Fone

Jim Hanas says,

I came across this ad for the Bone Fone -- a stereo shawl that transmits music through a listeners bones -- in a magazine from 1979.

Reader comment: Aaron T. says,

The tech behind the Bone Fone isn't dead yet: see link and link for recent examples of bone-conduction audio devices. As mentioned in the first link, the technology is also used for some hearing aids.
Reader comment: Chris Randall says,
I had one of these in high school. It doesn't transmit anything through any bones. It's just a scarf with speakers in it. One end had held batteries, and the other end was an FM receiver. Because the speakers lay right on your neck, it feels like it's vibrating a bit in time to the music.
Reader comment: Christian says,
DoCoMo's take on bone sound conduction technology lets kids look forward to Inspector Gadget's finger phone. Also, it looks like a watch worn backwards: a style that in 5 years should be in vogue yet again.

Reader comment: Thomas Dennis says,

Of course, it's not to be confused with the late, great Mad Magazine reporter, Phil Fonebone: Link
Reader comment: David Farrell says,
One use of the tech that I love is in my underwater mp3 playing goggles ( I find swimming to be so boring with nothing to concentrate on and had envisaged listening to podcasts or whatnot but it's too discracting missing the occassional word when you bring both ears out of the water. They're fab for music though.
Reader comment: Helen Chang says,
I found some in my parents' garage last year and sold them on eBay. Here are photos: one, two.

The 'important' photo is a bit blurry. Hooked up my ipod and my itrip - broadcasted to it just fine. The giant dog bone bag was cool but I think the shorter strap held it together and the longer one went around the waist? All and all - wacky. The bass is good but the thing weighs like 5 lbs with 4 AA batteries - no idea why anyone would want to wear that.

Reader comment: Craig DeForest says,
The Bone Fone was pretty cool for its day -- an attempt to provide a personal music bubble without unsightly headphones (ear-buds sucked in those days). I owned one during its heyday (well, properly speaking, my dad owned one and I grabbed it all the time). The speakers were OK, but it didn't really work on bone induction as claimed -- there were speakers embedded in the flexible part of the "shawl". Pointing them down coupled them into your clavicles, which made an interesting buzzing sensation (the only bone induction I could find). Pointing them up gave clearer sound reproduction. The stereo separation was almost as good as headphones, since the speakers were a couple of inches from the ear -- but anyone around could hear your music, since it was being played over a speaker.

My dad got it for jogging, and I used to wear it biking: external headphones would make a lot of extra turbulence and wind noise around the ear, and the bone fone avoided that.


  1. Found my bone-fone in the cab of my vintage ford pickup from 1979. Kind of a time capsule of sorts.
    Everything these folks say with regard to performance…(or lack thereof) is true. As far as transmitting waves through bones goes…let’s just say: back then the word boner meant “joke”.

  2. I actually bought one of these when I was in high school. I was in my last year and saved up and bought a Honda Express moped-BLUE! So here I was…..crusing down the street at a robust 28 miles per hour wearing my “cool” Bone Fone with it blaring as loud as it would go. Looking back, maybe I was a geek because I really wasn’t all that cool :}

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