The Chronicle:

My husband had just given me an iPod for my birthday,” Julie Barkley said. “Only I couldn’t start my walk because the earpiece cord was tangled. I spent the next five minutes trying to get it untangled, and I swear I heard an inner voice tell me, ‘you’re on to something here.’ ”

Barkley returned home and began researching iPod products on the Internet. Some companies already offered cord organizers, Barkley said, but they always came with earbuds – slang for earpieces – that upped the price.

“I liked my earbuds and didn’t want to have to buy new ones,” Barkley said. “After that, it was matter of playing around with different things at my house to find a prototype.”

One day, Barkley remembered she’d stashed yo-yos in a closet for her now 7-year-old son. Taking one apart, she experimented with various designs until she had a rough prototype of an organizer that would wrap an earbud cord around a central spool.

Barkley then contacted a professional designer who suggested she change the design from round to square. A few months later, Barkley had a real prototype.

The “Earbud Yo-Yo” made its debut at the Consumer Electronics Trade Show in Las Vegas this past January. While there, the invention attracted media attention from several magazines, trade publications and local television stations.

“I always knew I wanted to invent something,” Barkley said. “I used to pick things up when I was little and wonder how they worked. I just didn’t know what to invent until now.”

Photo by Covington Creations.

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