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​The Head-Bobbing History of The Boombox

Posted by Heather Jabornik on

Who doesn’t remember how cool it felt carrying a boombox on their shoulder to school or through the neighborhood? Ahhhh, the satisfying nostalgia of rocking past Mrs. McGillicutty screaming “Turn down that noise!” while pretending to not hear her. If you missed this era, don’t worry. We’ll boom the past right into your present with a history of the revolutionary boombox.


The boombox is invented in
the Netherlands by Philips

The invention spreads
to Japan

Boomboxes start to gain
popularity in the U.S.

They go mainstream,
appearing in Sears
and K-Mart

Sony introduces the first
CD-playing boombox

Saehan Information Systems
launches the first mp3 boombox

Classic boomboxes sell
as collector’s items for $800+


Here’s a stroll down memory lane for all you nostalgics or a knowledge drop for the young bloods out there. Boomboxes are transistorized portable music players. They have many aliases including, but not limited to:

  • Boombox
  • Ghetto Blaster (or Ghetto Briefcase)
  • Jambox
  • Boomblaster

These portable radios typically came with a cassette player, amplifier, AM/FM radio, speakers and fold-down handle. The earliest boomboxes had an 8-track player or turntables. To say they were pretty badass for their time is an understatement.

Each model projected a solid mix of treble, midrange and bass. Many even had double cassette drives, the ability to record off the radio (hello, mixtapes!) or through a microphone, and had detachable speakers for a little positioning flexibility. They usually ran on D batteries or could be plugged into a wall, but the real beauty was in their portability and inherent cool factor.

They became mainstream on the street of America when Sears and K-Mart started carrying them and gained momentum when Sony changed the game with the ability to play CDs. Well before the iPod or even the Walkman was introduced, boomboxes were the only way to portably share music with friends. Urban youth treated them like status symbols.


Today’s boomboxes play mp3s, utilize Bluetooth and accept micro-SD cards and USB flash drives. Companies like Lasonic even make boxes with the look and and feel of the past and technology of modern day. But diehard collectors can’t get enough of the “grails”—short for holy grail. The JVC RC-M90 is on the cover of LL Cool J’s first album “Radio” and is a highly sought-after box. Finding one will set you back at least $800, but most people within the boombox connoisseur community agree that it’s worth it for the sound and look alone.

Bottom line: Boomboxes are one of the most beloved inventions of the era. There are styles galore—some even in ammo cans—for every generation. It doesn’t matter if you worship Jimi Hendrix, N.W.A., Nirvana, The White Stripes or Kendrick Lamar. If you’re looking to bring a little nostalgia into your life, you know what to do. Mrs. McGillicutty has graciously accepted defeat at this point. BOOM!

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