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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Today, Celebrate the 121st Anniversary of the First Jukebox in SF -- And Anywhere

Posted By on Tue, Nov 23, 2010 at 2:58 PM

Invented in S.F. Photo by Mark J. Sebastian.
  • Invented in S.F. Photo by Mark J. Sebastian.
The first jukebox ever was installed 121 years ago today in San Francisco. No, not that neon-trimmed Internet-connected behemoth you use to ironically download Garth Brooks songs and then play them for your friends when it's time to leave The Page every Tuesday night. We're talking the original kind of jukebox, people, a shiny cabinet with a finite set of CDs or records -- yes, records! -- and also speakers, where you drop a coin in the slot, pick from a carefully curated selection of songs, and then while away hours in mechanical-sonic bliss. 

As Wired informs us, this wonderful device was invented here in San Francisco and installed at the Palais Royale Saloon on Nov. 23, 1889. (Although the original version was very different from what we described above.)

Nowadays of course, the original mechanical jukes are being replaced by the downloading kind, which makes us grouchy for a number of reasons. As crotchety as we get, this makes the S.F. Appeal's Katie Ann Doze even sadder:

But that doesn't mean I'm not sad that the materials for music are ghosts, you can't put it in your hands, you can't clutter your shelves, you can't press a button that turns the compact disc inserts inside a box that will play music over some shabby paneled speakers. And it doesn't mean I'm not mad when I think I'm playing records, when in fact, it's all just show.

I guess I'm still working to let go of the past, especially when that nostalgia is what internet jukeboxes are crassly banking on.

Well said. And now, we're off to figure out which bar's jukebox we'll be feeding quarters to while we celebrate the local creation of this fine piece of technology.

Follow us on Twitter @SFAllShookDown and @iPORT

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Ian S. Port


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