Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Travel Gear: Headphones


I rarely use headphones when traveling. On a long-haul, I prefer to read, snooze, or watch a movie in silence with subtitles turned on. I have yet to find comfortable, compact headphones.

Back in 1980, when the Sony Walkman was introduced to the USA, the airlines were still handing out pneumatic headsets in Economy.

These are plastic tubes that plug into two speakers hidden in the armrest.

There was usually a charge for headphones in Economy. For no charge I could swivel the armrest up to my ear. This uncomfortable posture only worked for a few minutes while I appeased my curiosity about something that had caught my attention on the screen.

The in-flight movie used actual film projected onto a screen on each bulkhead. Standing at the back of a two-aisle DC-10, I could see a different point in the movie on each screen through a cloud of cigarette smoke.
Pneumatic headsets still have application today. Headsets, almost identical to my Northwest Orient headset, can be worn by patients undergoing MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scans. Being all-plastic, they don't interfere with the magnetic field.

Today, for occasional listening on the move, I have a pair of buds I got free for taking part in a Google survey while killing time in an airport. They come in useful, with the sound off, if the person seated next to me talks at me, rather than with me.

In my hotel room, the speakers in my phone or tablet are sufficient for listening to the news on public radio. If I want better sound, I just connect the device to the television using a jack-to-phono cord.

Note: I still have the headset and the safety card. The card was lifted at the end of the final flight of an NWA MD-11 from HNL to MSP.

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