November 23 is the birthday of the commercial jukebox.

These days, many of us can play any song we want on our phones, but there was a time when on-demand music meant dropping a coin into a machine and watching it spin a record.


The jukebox is actually almost as old as the phonograph itself.

Thomas Edison filed a patent for his invention in 1877, and by 1889 a fellow inventor, Louis Glass, figured out a commercial application for recorded sound.

He installed an Edison phonograph inside an oak cabinet, which he called a nickel-in-a-slot, because when someone put a five-cent piece into the contraption, the music would play.

It could only handle one song at a time, and it didn’t have speakers as we know them, though Glass did set up four listening tubes.

And it was today in 1889 that the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco played host to the first nickel-in-a-slot, winning its place in history in part because it was near Glass’s workshop, so he didn’t have to move it far. (In return, Glass had each record include a reminder that people listening to the nickel-in-a-slot should go buy a drink at the end of the song.)

The invention was a hit, maybe too big a hit, because other inventors began patenting their own improvements on his design and setting up machines in other cities.

The name jukebox didn’t come along until the 1930s, as a takeoff on the dance halls and/or drinking establishments known as juke joints.

By the mid 20th century jukeboxes could not only handle lots of different records at a time, they also got fancy.

That’s why even in the days of digital streaming audio, there are plenty of people who collect, restore and repair antique jukeboxes, usually with classic vinyl inside, and hopefully keeping a few quarters on hand so they can play a few songs.

Now that we’ve pushed a few buttons on the jukebox, we’re going to push ourselves to the limit!

No, actually we’re just going to talk about someone who did.

Earlier this month Chris Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to finish an Ironman triathlon.

The 21 year old finished a 2.4 mile swim, 112 miles on a bike and 26.2 miles of running in just under 17 hours in Panama City, Florida.

Maybe I’ll go for a slightly longer walk today?

How the Jukebox Got Its Groove (Popular Mechanics)

Chris Nikic is the First Person with Down Syndrome to Ever Complete a Full Ironman (The Sifter)

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Jukebox photo by jodelli via Flickr/Creative Commons