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How the Jukebox Got Its Groove

When Thomas Edison showed off his phonograph in 1877, no one could imagine how important sound recording would become. That would only happen with the improvement of recording media quality so that music could be shared. Coin-operated vending machines were already around, and an enterprising inventor named Louis Glass married the two concepts together with his 1889 device that later became known as the juke box.

Glass's machine looks nothing like what we've come to know as a jukebox. The phonograph was encased in a lead-lined oak cabinet and had a 25-lb. sulfuric acid battery that provided electricity through wires to the motor. It could only play one wax cylinder at a time and had to be changed manually, meaning the music options—which probably included 1889 hits like "Down Went McGinty" and "The Rip Van Winkle Polka"—were quite limited. One clever tidbit: As part of the deal with the saloons, he had added an announcement at the end of each cylinder that told patrons "to go over to the bar and get a drink."

Amplification was poor, hence the four listening tubes. "It was a nickel for each tube, so you wouldn't want to join when (the song) was half-way through," Koenigsberg says, "Also, (the tubes) went into people's ears, so there was the not-quite-aesthetic pleasantry of handkerchiefs hanging on the side of the machine to wipe off the tubes." Nonetheless, the machine was a San Francisco sensation. A few weeks later, Glass placed a second machine in the same saloon. On December 18, 1889, he filed his application for the patent and quickly went to work making more.

That set off a race to make a better jukebox, with Glass competing to keep his innovation on top. Read the history of those delightful machines that fed the pop music industry for a hundred years at Popular Mechanics. -via Digg

(Image credit: Joe Mabel)


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Reminded me, and I believe my memory is correct, in the Army I had an M1 Carbine that had "RockOla" stamped on the barrel. WW2 was all military goods for the most part.
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I thought those were SO neat when I was a kid! It gave us something to read while waiting for our food, and it was a thrill when "our" song finally played. Skip ahead forty years, and my own kids felt the same way when seeing them at a local truck stop. Sadly, that truck stop was torn down soon after.
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