A boombox (or Ghetto Blaster) – basically a large but portable cassette player with two or more loudspeakers – was first developed by Philips who released their ‘Radiorecorder’ in 1969.
Soon every Japanese electronics manufacturer had one in their product range and flooded the European boombox market, continuing to innovate with size, form factor and technology, introducing such advances as stereo boomboxes, removable speakers, inbuilt TV receivers and, later, inbuilt CD players.
The boombox was introduced to the American market during the mid-1970s and became popular due to the relatively compact size matched with impressive sound quality – fusing the booming sound of large home stereo systems with the portability of small personal cassette players.
The devices exploded onto the streets of American cities and the desire for louder and heavier bass led to bigger and heavier boxes. By the 1980s some boomboxes had reached the size of a suitcase.
The bigger the better – and if there were multi-coloured lights that flashed in time to the beat then you ruled supreme!
The boombox quickly became associated with urban society, particularly African American and Hispanic youth, hence the (originally derogatory) nickname “ghetto blaster”.
Cities began banning boomboxes from public places and they became less and less acceptable on city streets. Finally, Malcolm McLaren picked them up in a big way and the fad died overnight.