Is there really a jukebox online, or is this a sound file playing on your server?
At the moment, if there's music streaming, it's because it's coming from an actual jukebox that's playing
in my house in Los Angeles. I'll admit I've toyed with the idea of capturing the mp3 stream to disk
and then replaying it at times of day when the juke box is off, but that seems to me to be sort of missing
the fundamental point of the whole exercise.
That being ...?
To mix some really old technology with some really modern technology.
So why not play the jukebox all the time?
Besides the power consumption, there's a certain amount of cumulative wear on the needle
(replaceable) and records (not replaceable, for the most part) to take into consideration.
(The jukebox mechanism itself is designed to run essentially continuously for years with
only occasional lubrication.)
It's my desire not to waste resources playing the juke when there's likely not to be anyone
out there listening to it.
More importantly, though, the jukebox makes a loud ka-chunk noise
every time it goes from record to record. There are times during the day when I need silence
to accomplish my work, and at night, well, I'm sure you understand.
When is it typically on, then?
Try Friday mornings, weekday afternoons, and weekend daytimes in the Pacific time zone.
What does it mean when the jukebox is "in standby mode"?
It means it's not playing at the moment, but it's available to be turned on over the
web by a user such as yourself. Scroll down the main page and click the circle with a number in it.
Each time you do, you'll add ten minutes of playing time, up to a maximum of two hours. Think of it
as like putting dimes in the coin slot, baby.
What's the number represent?
Approximately how many minutes are left. If it reaches zero and there's no one around to punch in
some additional time, it will complete whatever record it's playing and then go back
into standby mode to conserve power.
I'm clicking the play timer and nothing's happening. Am I doing it wrong?
Probably not, but if the jukebox is "off" (e.g. when it's the middle of the night here),
or in maintenance mode, then play time cannot be added. Also, there are times when the jukebox
will just be fixed "on" without involving the timer, because I'm at home, listening to it.
If I hear a song I like, when will it play again?
Depends how many records are loaded in the rack currently. If all 100 slots are filled, the whole
cycle can take about ten hours. Typically, though, I put 20-30 in so I can hear them once
or twice before I take them out. 20 records × 2 sides, each about 3 minutes = 2 hours.
I was listening to a song here and all of a sudden it stopped and a new one started. What happened?
Perhaps someone clicked the reject button at the bottom of the main page, causing the jukebox to
stop playing the current selection and move on to the next one.
How does that work?
It's pleasingly complicated. When you click the onscreen button and okay past the warning message,
your browser sends an AJAX request back to the public webserver. A CGI script, written in Ruby,
checks to see if you're authorized to reject the record, and if so it sends a
request down to my home computer, the one the jukebox is attached to. An application there,
written in VB.Net, listens for incoming HTTP requests on a specified port. It authenticates
the request and then sends an appropriate series of commands out a virtual RS-232 (or "Com") port.
An automation board, attached to the computer via USB, responds to these commands by, in this
case, closing a relay attached to a pair of wires which go into the jukebox mechanism and trigger
an operational sequence that lifts the tone arm, puts the record back, and scans for the next one.
Wow. You have to do that any time you want to skip a record?
I don't, because there's a button on the front of the jukebox that accomplishes the same thing
as closing the relay, and I can just walk up and press it with my finger.
How do I know if I'm authorized to reject a record?
Everybody is, for now. If you do it too frequently, and to records I like, I'm liable to
revoke your rejection privileges.
Sometimes it doesn't seem to work.
Occasionally I'll put the jukebox in a mode where it plays, and you can listen to it, but
rejecting records remotely is temporarily disabled, e.g. because I'm having a party and don't want
to hear halves of songs.
The machine keeps playing I hear a song I hate. How can I get you to take it out permanently?
Email me and we can debate it if I disagree. In the meantime, take comfort in the fact that
I usually rotate the whole set of records out two to five times a month.
Can I get the machine to skip directly to a record I especially like?
Not yet, but that's in my future projects list, along with Twitter-integrated automation.
Who wrote the software you're using to do this?
I did. Software development is one of my hobbies.
Are you doing this to make money?
Nope, I just like old phonographs and, more importantly, old records.
Where did you get this thing?
I bought it off Craigslist from a couple in Glendale, CA. The man said he'd had it since his
youth and I believe him.
Did it work?
Kind of. I needed to have it serviced before it would play properly, though, so I took it to
Warren Rowe in El Monte. He and his associate Eddie took the whole thing apart, cleaned and
lubricated everything, reassembled and adjusted it to factory specifications. He also removed the
original 1953 mono tone arm and cartridge assembly and replaced it with a stereo assembly from
a later model Seeburg. That is why you hear records in brilliant living stereo.
Then I brought it home and installed a Behringer USB-enabled phono preamp and connected it to my
server. There are some other steps involved, the end result of which is that the audio comes out
as an MP3 HTTP stream. At home, I use iTunes and a few AirPort Expresses so that the music
comes out in every room I have a stereo.
What did this all cost?
Ugh. Don't ask. If I had known when I started, I would have been easily talked out of it.
Where did the records come from?
Some I've had since I was five or six and appropriated a box of ex-radio-station
45s my uncle Pat had given my
father a decade and a half earlier. Others I've acquired through the years flipping through
boxes at thrift stores and estate sales. More recently, I've started going out hunting
specifically for records to play in the jukebox.
How many do you have?
A lot. In fact, the impetus for the jukebox project grew out of having too many
records to be able to listen to all them when it involved getting up and flipping one over
or putting a new one on every three minutes. I got a stack-on changer, but that only
partially solved the problem. There has to be a better way, I thought, and started doing
my research. Turns out the Seeburg library
unit fits the bill better than another other juke ever made.
It has no coin mechanism, or push-button memory, no flashing lights or bubbles.
It does only one thing: its plays 45s, up to a hundred of them, over and over, from the time you turn
it on until the time you turn it off with a single knob.
Are you looking for more records?
Always. But my primary criterion is 'do I like the songs?' rather than 'how much is
this worth?' or even 'is it in good condition?' In this respect I'm different from
a lot of record collectors out there. Condition is less critical when you're going to put
the record in a jukebox and play it a hundred times than it is when you're planning to
play it once on a top-end turntable, rip it to your hard drive,
and then put it back in a protective sleeve for the rest of all time.
What do you like?
A lot of the things in the mix are simply guilty pleasures: things a white American
kid heard on the radio growing up in the 70s and 80s. But my favorite things here
are, hands down, soul and R&B records from the 50s and 60s and funky stuff from the
70s. When I see something that looks like it might be one of those, I buy it.
Also, big thumbs up to anything with a steel guitar (old country, surf, Hawaii),
an inventive string arrangement or complex backing vocals. And sometimes it's enough
just having a weird B-side.
Well, I have some records I want to give you to play.
That's wonderful. I would love to have them. Email me.
I have some records I'd be willing to lend you to play.
Okay, but be forewarned that the jukebox is a little rougher on records than when
you play them on your turntable at home, so when they come back to you they are likely to
be slightly abraded by the loading/unloading process and slightly worn by the act of
being played repeatedly by the Pickering 340D cartridge, which tracks at about 3 grams.
I don't have any records for you. Can I send you some money to go buy them yourself?
Most certainly. I may spend some of it on needles too, to keep everything sounding fresh.
You can click this button or email me directly if you prefer.
You sure have a lot to say about this project. Is there anything left to know?