Is That A Record Player In Your Pocket Or…

If aliens visited the Earth, they might find our obsession with music hard to fathom. We have music in our homes, our cars, and our elevators. Musical performances draw huge crowds and create enormous fame for a select few musicians. These days, your music player of choice is probably the phone in your pocket. What our grandparents wouldn’t have done to have a pocket-sized music player. Wait…, it turns out they had them. [Rare Historical Photos] has pictures and other material related to the Mikiphone — a “pocket phonograph.” We don’t know how it sounded, but it is a fantastic piece of work visually. Actually, thanks to the [Stanford Archive of Recorded Sound], you can hear one of these rare machines playing in the video below. If only it were playing Toni Basil.

The device was made in the 1920s and had a decidedly strange tonearm. You wind it up with a gigantic key mechanism. There’s no electricity. A bakelite resonator became the speaker attached to the tone arm. The device was made in Switzerland by a company that started in music boxes. However, the design was the work of two brothers named Vadász.

Apparently, there were between 100,000 and 180,000 Mikiphones produced. The case is 11.5 cm in diameter and less than 5 cm thick. While the device could be transported in your pocket, it did require you to assemble it before it would play. So, this was less of a Walkman and more of a boom box for its time. If you can’t visualize how it all fits in the case, check out the second video, below, from [Columbia].

You can have a record player in your car. Why not underwater?

26 thoughts on “Is That A Record Player In Your Pocket Or…

  1. “We have music in our homes, our cars, and our elevators.”

    I saw myself a curious case of nursery rhymes being played 24/7 in a public lavatory to deter homeless. Really awkward.

      1. Didn’t work in our music class in school, though.
        We got ear bleeding from listening to a few songs of New German Wave music back then.
        The majority of us pupils preferred classical music over it when asked. The teacher was baffled and confused. Must have been a boomer, age wise. He apparently didn’t understand why we found the NGW music he played to be somewhat cringe.

    1. How well did you check, the fact that your first hit (etsy) returned a seller who asked such an amount doesn’t mean it is worth that amount or that it’s the going rate. If you’d look further you’d find them for an asking price of €600ish (ebay). Catawiki mentioned a similar device being sold for €500, now this is 288 weeks ago, but the market for this stuff has been declining heavily over the past decade.
      Now you could argue about the quality, but that will always be a thing up for debate.

      What I mean to say is that from the perspective of a casual observer the appearance of the value of things is mostly determined by the amount people ask for it when they try to sell it and never by the amount the seller really got for it when they sold it. Which confuses the market heavily and is most likely one of the main reasons why retro computing is becoming pretty expensive. Some idiot posts a useless tape for €50,- (but is never sold, so this “info” stays online forever) then some other idiot uses that value as a reference and before you know it tapes are “really” expensive. The cheap stuff (the real value) is sold fast, the expensive trash remains and defines the price in someway.
      Now there is always the situation that some crazy collector mistakenly buys that silly tape for €50 but does that really mean that that tape is worth it, that somebody lost its mind doesn’t determine the true market value.

      1. You clearly miss the point of haggling. It goes both ways.

        If you post a price of $50, you get a bunch of tire kickers offering you $5 for your stuff. If you post a price of $500 then you get people offering you $50 which is what you wanted in the first place.

        1. If you post a price of $500 on a $50 item, I’m not even going to look at your listing if I’m buying. If I post a price of $50 and you offer $5, I’m automatically dismissing your offer without a thought. Tire kickers may waste your time by not actually closing the deal once you accept an offer, may claim it didn’t arrive or arrived broken if you ship something without paying for proof of delivery, or may do all sorts of other things that make it not worth selling things to them. People selling things for way too much are likely to think their item is in much better shape than it is, so if there’s any doubt or any dispute they are less likely to be reasonable. I’d rather avoid the whole mess and find items that are reasonably priced in the first place.

          1. > If I post a price of $50 and you offer $5, I’m automatically dismissing your offer without a thought.

            Then you’ll never get it sold. There’s the lemon market effect, where people assume normal priced items are basically broken and you’re trying to cheat them with junk, so they either won’t bid you or they’ll try to haggle down to some ridiculously low price. The moment you double or triple the price, people get interested and you start to get real offers.

          2. I can’t say I’ve been on the selling end of this equation, but I know the things I buy generally appear as if the split between the very cheapest and the slightly-better options is much less than 10x the price. More like a tenth, often. Except for the ones where the market’s not really converging on a price – things where there’s not lots of well-connected buyers nor lots of well-connected sellers.

            The volumes moved might be pretty different, but for the reasons I stated it’d be a nightmare to me to deal with selling to a tire kicker, and if I start around 2-3x the real price and end at the real price of 50, then the buyer is almost definitely a tire kicker because the typical path for that would have them offering way less than the list price to start off. Still, you may be right that I’ll never sell it that way.

        2. If someone asks for a sum of $500, I would resign and no longer bother with that person.
          Because, from my point of view, that someone seems to be either out of his mind or not ready for diplomacy. Offering a lower price here might even result in an argument, which isn’t worth it. I would rather avoid that and just silently ignore the item on sale.

          1. Then never do business in the construction industry. The list prices can be absolutely bonkers, but when you walk in and place an order for, let’s say ten boxes of screws, you instantly get an 80% discount.

          2. >I would resign and no longer bother with that person.

            That’s the point. No tire kickers. There’s enough people already who know what the thing is really worth to bother dealing with people trying to haggle down from the normal price.

  2. The moniker “pocket phonograph” promptly reminded me of the Sound Burger/Mister Disc (later revived ba Audio Technica), a folding bar containing the drive motor and a tone arm extending at the side onto the disc.

  3. > If aliens visited the Earth, they might find our obsession with music hard to fathom.

    I, for one, would welcome our alien overlords if it meant I didn’t have to encounter so much music.

    Right now I’m on phone listening to generic music interspersed with “your call is important to us” while I hold (only 37 more minutes). If I’m outdoors I there’s a steady stream of douchbags driving by blasting bass from their spoiler-equipped Honda Civics. The nearby Mexican construction workers blast their mariachi music starting before dawn. I can’t seem to distance myself from music, especially Other People’s Music and I long for some silence.

    1. Hey, I agree that people’s music shouldn’t be so loud that everyone around is forced to share their preference. I can’t support the ones blasting music in a car unnecessarily, or in a shared location without consent. I would like if the call music was low volume, just so that you can tell the call has not dropped and the person I’m waiting for hasn’t picked up. I even understand wanting silence or at least quiet, and am lucky to be mostly able to get it when i want.

      But not having access to an inoffensive background noise, whether music or otherwise, is just as potentially uncomfortable to most people. A lot of us turn music on for the purpose of covering up less pleasant background noises, as well as making it so that the small noises we make can go unnoticed to avoid distracting others. The sound of rain, wind, a fan, and such are familiar non-musical options. Would you really rather listen to the sound of sniffles, coughs, typing, squeaking chairs, etc in an office? Or a screaming baby and arguing couple three doors down at home? No, of course not, if you’re most people. You’d rather pick something you can tolerate, which may not be the same as everyone else, and just hear that thing instead.

      1. “…the ones blasting music in a car unnecessarily” I’ve never encountered, and cannot imagine, a situation wherein (pseudo-) music was being broadcast into neighboring vehicles by necessity. Wondering what conditions or situation could possibly require one to blast the ker-THUMP ker-THUMP ker-THUMP of “entertainment” from one’s vehicle and into every other vehicle in a half-kilometer radius.

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