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Exploring the history of the jukebox

Despite the fact the jukeboxes of today represent sophisticated digital entertainment systems, pub-goers still seem to see the jukebox with a hint of fond nostalgia. In honour of the jukebox’s on-going vintage appeal, this blog post will take a sentimental look back at the evolution of the humble jukebox, from its invention back in 1889 to the present day.

The jukebox’s story begins over a century ago in the Palais Royale Saloon, San Francisco, where the first ever jukebox was developed by the Pacific Phonograph Company.

This early machine was formed of four stethoscope-like tubes, used in the same way as modern-day headphones, connected to an Edison Class M electric gramophone housed inside a wooden cabinet. This original jukebox was given the not-so-memorable name of ‘nickel-in-the-slot player’, as it functioned by inserting nickel coins, worth around $1.08 in modern currency.

Fortunately for the Palais Royal, the new machine was an overnight success, and quickly became so popular that it soon replaced the self-playing piano as the background music system of choice for most pubs and bars.

Over time, the mechanisms behind the jukebox began to change, with amplification technology allowing whole bars worth of customers to enjoy their favourite songs, instead of the four patrons served by the original machine.

Alongside the evolution of this much-loved invention, the machine’s name also changed as consumers began adopting the term ‘jukebox’, as they are known today. The reason behind this change in terminology is still largely undetermined, though it may relate to the slang term ‘juke house’, used at the time to describe a rowdy public house.

There’s no doubt that modern digital jukeboxes are a world apart from these original models, but as the lively meaning behind its name might suggest, the jukebox’s ability to captivate a crowd dates right back to its initial creation and seems likely to continue well into the future.

To step back from the past and look towards the future of background music systems, read up on the numerous special features offered by thelatest digital jukeboxes here.

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