Coin-Operated Jukebox

Louis Glass
November 23, 1889

The jukebox is much older than one might assume. In 1887, Louis Glass, who owned a gin joint in San Francisco, thought to combine Thomas Edison’s Class M electric phonograph with a showy oak cabinet, and the jukebox was born. This technology did not change much over time, although today most jukeboxes, unless they are stationed for kitsch, have digital interfaces. The name “jukebox” references juke joints from the same time period, which were usually run by free black Americans, sold cheap liquor, and served a mostly black clientele, where music was prominent. The fiddle and the banjo were common in juke joints, as well as upright pianos on which ragtime would be played.
The jukebox utilizes a player mechanism motor and a coin mechanism motor to function. There is a three-way coin slot, for nickels, dimes, and quarters—which dictate home many songs one might select (1, 2, or 5). One would insert the coin into the slot, which would then travel down a funnel. If the machine could not process the coin, it would be ejected through the slug rejector, and reappear in an opening on the front of the jukebox, so that one might retrieve one’s change. Once the coin is accepted, it travels down through one of three slots, once it has been weighed and measured to determine the denomination of the coin. Once it has passed through the coin grinder, the coin is led to a neoprene rubber wheel that activates electrical switches according to the amount of money inserted. The coin is then dropped into a cash safe inside the machine. A light appears on the outside of the machine, signaling to the purchaser that he must select his song. The button he presses is will cause the coils and rods to respond, which push the plates backwards. This plate sends an electrical current that activates the master switch, and the jukebox will play its song.

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