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Where have all the jukeboxes gone?

Herb Berkowitz has an interesting essay in the Wall Street Journal today full of praise for jukeboxes and scorn for iPods -and by extension, all the other portable music players since the Walkman. I miss jukeboxes myself and wonder when they started fading from public life. Used to be you couldn't find a bar or a sandwich joint without one, but these days it's more common to hear the radio playing, and I think that's a giant step backward for society. It's a lot easier to relax when you're listening to the music that you like instead of whatever annoying tune is on the radio; God knows there have been plenty of times when there's absolutely nothing good on the air. Take, for example, the spring and summer of 1983 when I usually tuned in to WGMS, Washington's all-classical station. Not because I'm a big fan of classical, but because all the other pop stations were playing R&B or disco and the one rock station was recycling the same ten Led Zeppelin tunes over and over and over and over until you wanted to shoot yourself.

I thought it was pretty cool when I saw a jukebox in an Indianapolis Waffle House that played CDs. I'd never seen one like that before. Too bad those didn't catch on everywhere, or undergo miniaturization so they could fit into booths like some jukebox systems I'd seen. It strikes me that with LCD displays, hard drives and network gear being so cheap, you could quite easily stuff more music into a jukebox music system than you could hold in several truckloads of the old 45 singles players...

...anyway, this is all cool, but (much like Berkowitz) misses the real point of mp3 players. Like the Walkman before them, mp3 players allow us to being the music we want wherever we want it. We don't have to listen to what some DJ thinks (or is being paid tio think) we ought to hear. We can pick our own damn music, and there's software out there that will even help us find more music with similar grooves and beats. With software such as Winamp and Windows Media Player, we even have jukeboxes of our own now, stocked with more of our music. Sure, it takes some effort to rip it and download it and remix it, but having shuffled through piles of vinyl albums and boxes full of cassettes, I'd damn sure rather do it this way than have to heave around all that plastic. Maybe it's not as retro and pretty as a 1960s Seeburg, but my Gateway laptop and its external hard drive do a good enough job for me.