Paleo-walkman of 1957

The secret history of the walkman revealed: Paul Johnson of Jacksonville, Fla invented this one-tube radio (powered by two dry cells) in 1957, to keep him entertained while he did yard-work. In terms of design aesthetics, I'm willing to say that this is the coolest, mad-sceintist-looking-est headset ever to grace the head of a human.

Headwork in the Garden


  1. That does look like a headset that screams “No I will not look after your brats while you go bowling.”


  2. this was obviously before people started to worry about the effects of electromagnetic radiation on your brain

  3. Regenerative receiver using one “peanut” tube driving dynamic hi-z arny surplus headphones would not use much current and last a couple of hours off batteries easily. Batteries could possibly be recharged a couple of times. That was also when radio was still good. transistors were right around the corner. A visionary before his time.


  4. #3, Stefan Jones:

    The “dry cells” were probably hanging from his waist and weighed more than a can of soda.

    Yes, I know you were joking, but… not necessarily; the AA battery has been around since the late 1940s.

    There were even battery-less radios long before this; their circuits could be tiny, but their need for an aerial many metres long prevented them being (fully) portable. However, during WWII, loads of clandestine receivers were built like this; rusty razor blades or lumps of coal served as their semiconductors.

  5. Being considered a weirdo in 1957 could have been dangerous. The FBI probably started a file on him to make sure he wasn’t a secret Communist listening to radio broadcasts from Moscow.

  6. This is the 1957 equivalent of dorks with those blue LED flashing BlueTooth thingies stuck in there ear.

    There are some designs which should never be developed because:

    1) Humanity is not ready for them
    2) There are Things We Aren’t Meant to Know
    3) The end-user looks like a complete idiot using them

  7. Makes me want to hack/make my old Linksys wireless router into a music player and glue it to the top of my headphones.

  8. @11 – Loooking up plans on the internet in 2007 might get you put on a list too. The same list you mentioned, except it has had ‘commie’ crossed out and ‘terrorist’ penciled in. If you look carefully you can still read ‘royalist’ in 200 year old pencil scratchings. Some copies of the list had ‘Yankee’, ‘Carpetbagger’, or ‘Okie’.

    The USA is a nation defined by ‘The Other’, and we’re them.

  9. @13 – I think the essential difference here is that today’s Bluetooth dorks didn’t, y’know, build their own devices. And also they don’t look COMPLETELY AWESOME like Mr. Johnson does. Although even those horrible mass-market earpieces have some slightly debased retro sci-fi charm.

  10. 1957 – Puts antenna on head
    1958 – Struck by lightning. Repeatedly.
    1959 – Becomes mad scientist. Vows to destroy the sky.

  11. Non-powered radios didn’t need particularly long antennas – i had one in 1959 that was shaped vaguely like a spaceship; it had a piezo-crystal earpiece, and consisted basically of a a slug-tuned coul, a capacitor (i think) and a germanium diode.

    You tuned it by sliding the slug up and down in the coil by means of a rod with a pla
    stic button on the end that emerged from the “nose” of the rocket shape.

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