The Boombox Project: Photos by Lyle Owerko
Photos of portable cassette tape players that became an icon of popular culture and defined the 1980s.
Exactly when the term "boom box" hit the streets is not known for sure. In the United States, department stores apparently began using the term in marketing and advertising as early as 1983. Street slang linguists pin the term down at 1981, and define the boom box as "a large portable radio and tape player with two attached speaker". Initially, it became identified with certain segments of urban society, hence adopting epithetic nicknames, like "ghetto blaster" and "jam box". But as the masses began to embrace gargantuan conglomerations of electronic lights and chrome plated gadgetry an inherent form of portable entertainment and expression was born. The boom box as it has evolved is now an icon of popular culture, it has been referenced by rockers, poppers, hip-hoppers and graffers alike. It is a symbol of rebellion and a way to shout your message at the system. Turn up the volume on your boom box, whatever the size, and let the capstan wheels of the tape deck drive a favorite mix-tape to life... As the defiant voice of punk rock legend Joe Strummer sang "This is radio dash using audio ammunition..."