Bone Fone, the Terror!

Remembering the shawl that sent music through your bones

"You're standing in an open field. Suddenly there's music in all directions. Your bones resonate as if you're listening to beautiful music in front of a powerful home stereo system. But there's no radio in sight, and nobody else hears what you do."

Who wouldn't want this experience? 

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That dystopian passage is copy from a 1979 ad for a product called Bone Fone. It was not a phone. It was a Spandex-covered radio that one could drape over their shoulders to get "the same separation you'd expect from earphones." Wearing it over or under clothing, one could "jog and even do headstands" in the musical scarf made of the same Lycra used in "expensive swimsuits." Three decades later, even the greatest scholars can only offer despondent conjecture as to why Bone Fone failed. 

Did people not want AM chatter and FM hits resonating through their bones? Were the speakers not sufficiently "crush resistant"? Did everyone who tried it "not believe what [they] heard and thought someone was playing a trick on [them]?"

The Bone Fone was "built for abuse," but in a world now without it, who are the real victims?

All music (and all sound) eventually moves your little inner ear bones, so it's not that strange. Except that music doesn't usually get there via your clavicles. Wearable tech was such a crazy fad.

Presented by

James Hamblin, MD, is a senior editor at The Atlantic. He writes the health column for the monthly magazine and hosts the video series If Our Bodies Could Talk.

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