AMI JCI 100. Serial number 420220. The two-hundred and twentieth example of eleven hundred and forty-five juke-boxes (420001-421145) made in Grand Rapids Michigan in 1958.
The Automated Musical Instrument Company (AMI), starting with only $200 in working-capital, manufactured an automatic phonograph in 1927. They designed a mechanism for selectable music rolls which was later modified for use in juke-boxes. Justus Seeburg combined an electrostatic loudspeaker with a coin-operated record player in 1928.  ‘Juke-joint’ (c 1940): from West African Gullah word ‘joog’ : disorderly, rowdy, wicked.
In 1922, the Automated Musical Instrument Company moved into a factory in Grand Rapids Michigan, the boyhood home of Gerald R. Ford Junior. The site was previously used by a hearse manufacturer. During the post depression era, ‘juke-joints’ proliferated offering drinks, dancing and blues music.
Post-war boom saw the AMI factory producing 100 machines per day for 245 days a year. Fuelled new audio technology. Popular culture of ‘malt-shops’ and ‘bobby-soxers’ demanded cheap entertainment. Juke-boxes gave the public a medium to hear the latest songs. Washington’s ‘Sit-down’ law required a tavern’s patron to remain seated while drinking and ‘not to walk to a juke-box with a drink in his hand’.  
Counters showed the operator the number of times each record was played to enable retention of most popular and replacement of others. Between 1945 and 1960, British youth underwent a period of massive ‘Americanisation’.
(Horn, A. Juke Box Britain: Americanisation and Youth Culture
. Manchester: MUP, 2009).
There were less than 100 juke-boxes in Britain in 1945 and over 15,000 by 1958. Juke-boxes and youth cafes proliferated and became part of mainstream culture.
‘The main cam begins its cycle, raising the record lift-arm, opening the clamp- arm, closing the clamp-arm, releasing the tone arm and opening the operating switch (…) as the motor relay has dropped out this also de-mutes the amplifier’. (Napps Schultz Manga Operating Manual c.1958). Social revolt in a new context, that of petty-crime and swank.
‘As the number one manufacturer of commercial and home juke-boxes, (AMI) have been making places come alive for over 80 years’ (Rowe-AMI
Advertising Copy).‘The trappings of working-class dandyism, though spectacular in their expense and visual effects, symbolised little more than a naïve trust in the power of consumerism to transform humdrum realities’
Art Brown made it through a strike and bankruptcy during his 29 years at AMI. His grandfather, father, mother, aunt, uncle and a brother worked there over the years. Kenneth Fearing, narrator of street-life, the world of dime-stores, cheap cafes, hustlers, city slang; writer of The Big Clock, 1946, marginalised for his commitment to techniques and attitudes formed during the depression: The juke-box has a big square face.
A majestic face, softly glowing with red
And green and purple lights.
Have you got a face as bright as that?
But it’s a proven fact; that a juke-box has no ears.
(Fearing, K. King Juke
‘With a music catalogue offering of hundreds of thousands of songs, digital downloading jukeboxes appeal to all audiences creating an exceptional interactive music experience that will keep them coming back for more’ (Rowe-AMI
Advertising Copy 2006).That glamorous musical beast that was the juke-box has departed, its soundscape lost to the anodyne respectfulness of nostalgia.
(Blake, A. Times Higher Education Supplement
, 2009). 
‘When Rowe International (AMI) rolls out a juke-box to celebrate its 100th anniversary this year, it won’t come from a factory that operates in Grand Rapids, local workers learned Thursday. The iconic music maker on the city’s Southeast side told about 100 manufacturing workers that production would shift to Mexico in August, ending decades of humming equipment at 1500 Union Avenue’. (West Michigan Business News
. Feb. 27th 2009). ‘We’re not stupid. We saw it coming, but we hoped that it would last a couple more years’ said Brown, 52. ‘It’s kind of ironic on the 100th anniversary’. Simon RothonInvited contributor Simon Rothon is about to begin his PhD research at UCL into the French and English 'manly hero' in nineteenth-century adventure romances.
I’ve always admired them. I never knew them particularly well. I think they’ve got the fame and beauty to hear of their demise slightly before the fact of their demise. I’m going to call them, all of them, the Contraption, because now’s the time to be reflective, or at least to be solemn.
We say the cosmos ended long ago, and here I’m referring to the old Greek idea of the cosmos, with the earth at the center, the fire tucked in beneath the moon, the incorruptible spheres nested up and up to the uppermost sphere of stars, which was very seriously called the “place” of the universe because everything needed to be somewhere. There are many theories about when the old cosmos died. I don’t think it did. I don’t think the new universe lives alone, and I think most of us are found in between the two. It’s those of us in between who love the Contraption.
The Contraption is neat and self-contained. In this way, it’s like the old universe. You pull the handle back and release the silver ball. The silver ball mounts elliptically through its aphelion. In this way, the Contraption is like the new universe. The ball gets to the heights because it’s born furious and innocent. It’s buffeted everywhere as it hurries or slouches to the underworld. In this way, the Contraption is like the old universe. There’s no divine hope for the silver ball, but skill and unpredictability. In this way, the Contraption is like the new universe. There’s hope for it in the precise astrology of the blinking lights. In this way, the Contraption is like the old universe.
I don’t know what it means that the Contraption is almost dead. Everybody wants to say it had a second life, a digital life, but I knew it never had a chance. It’s not our taste anymore too read so much from so little, especially not on computer screens. It carried the eye a certain way.Jonathan RegierInvited contributor Jonathan Regier is a writer and doctoral student in the philosophy of science at Paris 7. His first book of poems came out with Six Gallery Press in 2008. He's currently at work on the second, also for 6GP.
Nagiko learns to type in Peter Greenaway's 1996 film The Pillow Book
Invited contribution by Gigi Chang, assistant curator of
China Design Now exhibition held at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 2008.
A Chinese typewriter was specially acquired for the V&A exhibition China Design Now
(2008) to illustrate the uniqueness and complexity of Chinese typography. It was pure good fortune that we managed to find one. We were on a research trip in China, visiting a fashion designer's showroom in Shanghai. On the same street, there were a number of shabby-looking antique shops. Nestled amongst table lamps and chairs and in the middle of this narrow street sat a Chinese typewriter! We had been looking for such a typewriter for a long time, and were about to formally borrow one from a Shenzhen-based graphic designer, so without hesitation we purchased it with the intention of acquiring it for the Museum's permanent collection.
Chinese characters could be such a mystery to someone unfamiliar with the language. For the exhibition, we felt it was important to find a object that could anchor the graphic design works on show, especially those dealing with Chinese typography. A Chinese typewriter does the job very well, as the shape faintly recalls western typewriters (especially the roller), whilst the tray with its thousands of character helps to visually elucidate how Chinese characters come about in print.
Typing in Chinese before widespread computerisation was a specialist skill. A Chinese typewriter does not have a keyboard, but instead uses a tray that contains over 2,000 characters, arranged according to 214 groups of meaning classifiers (the building blocks, or bushou
, of characters). Several thousand more would be available on a second tray. The typist first aligns the tray and then presses a key, which makes an arm pick up each desired character in turn and strike it against the paper. It is a time-consuming process, however professional typists could average 3,500 characters per hour.Gigi Chang
Link to a Taiwanese blog with good photos - 'memory of mother as a typist': http://jasonblog.tw/2009/06/memory-about-chinese-typewriter.html
V&A China Design Now
original exhibition website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/vastatic/microsites/1636_chinadesignnow/the-exhibition
A touring version of the exhibition is showing at Portland Art Museum (Oregon) until 17 January 2010: http://portlandartmuseum.org/exhibitions/feature/China-Design-Now
Nagiko loses patience with the difficult task of learning to type (from The Pillow Book)
I was recently discussing the Autopsies Project with a friend who was eager to find out whether matches come under our remit for dead objects. On consideration, I decided they may in fact be the ultimate in dead objects, for their useful working lives are so short they are pretty much dead on arrival. They are struck, they burst into momentary flame and then are consigned to ashtray, bin, or pavement. On a wider scale, matches have been traditionally shunned in favour of the mechanical lighter which is refuelled and re-used.
The friend in question has been collecting boxes of matches for some time, mainly from junk and curiosity shops around Brighton. He kindly donated the box pictured for inclusion in the Autopsies project. I am unable to say with any certainty when the box dates from but it features detailed prints of Italian landmarks, a delicately crafted inner-box and a strip of very worn sandpaper. The matches inside are needle-thin and so chic in comparison with the lumpy affairs we grope for during power cuts today. These are elegant and fashionable. The strangest sensation comes from lighting one, as the smell it creates is the dead come to life--for it smells so much like the past.
Mechanised writing systems were first developed as writing aids to those who were blind or had impaired vision. These systems included the ‘typographer,’ designed by William Burt in 1829, whereby the user turned a dial to select keys and the ‘chirographer’ designed by William Thurber in 1845. The need for an automated system was more widespread, however, with stenographers and telegraphers in popular demand for their efficiency in communication. In 1865 the first marketable version of the typewriter was patented by Rev. Rasmus Malling in Denmark and became known as the ‘Hansen Writing Ball.’
Two years later in Wisconsin, Christopher Soles, Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule put their design for the ‘QWERTY’ typewriter into production with Remington (a company then famous for its manufacture of sewing machines). By 1910, this design had become the standard throughout the industry. Early designs often featured floral patterns in order to appeal to the vast number of female secretaries and typists who used them. The typewriter soon broke through this stereotype and became popular with journalists, novelists and in the home. In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mina famously records her tale using a typewriter; she transcribes every letter and document in order to standardise and make legible the disparate elements of her story.
The electrification of the typewriter was investigated as early as 1870, as Edison experimented with relaying typed information down a telegraph line. It was not until nearly a century later that this idea was popularised. Indeed, electrification was the death knell of the mechanical typewriter, with electronic keyboards taking their place. Today the romantic notion of ‘typecasting’ keeps the typewriter alive (a process where bloggers type their posts and scan the results onto a computer), as do collectors (who famously count Tom Hanks among their number.
The use of perfume can be traced back to ancient civilisations in Mesopotamia, Egypt and India, where incense-based perfumes were widespread. The first known chemist was a maker of perfumes in about 2000 BC. Perfumes, as precious commodities that were often bound up in the rituals of religious practices (especially those involving death) were often held in elaborate containers. These might be ceramic or more frequently stone, a porous material. The Romans would use hollowed-out precious stones, a common practise until the invention of glass. Glass perfume containers found in Palestine date back to around 500 BC.
Perfumes needed to be stored in containers that ideally shielded them from heat, light and oxygen, all elements that would speed up the process of decay. Perfume bottles could remove these elements and the development of the atomizer allowed the perfume to be stored in an oxygen and dust free container.
The history of perfume and its champions is one of decadence and excess. The use of perfume was popularised in Europe in the fourteenth century, when Queen Elizabeth of Hungary became interested in its use. In sixteenth century Italy, Catherine de’Medici hired a perfumer to live on site and guard the materials and mixtures he made from outsiders. Perfume bottles reflect this ostentation and display of wealth through the nineteenth century up to the 1910s, when designers like Lalique were called upon to create one-off pieces. Typically at this time perfumes would be sold in simple containers and decanted into exquisite bottles at home. This activity seems to have died off around the 1960s, when perfume makers democratised their target market and began to sell perfumes in bottles made to standardised designs. As each brand now makes sure to have its own eye-catching package, the need for the individual to store and display their perfume has become largely redundant.
The sewing machine became a popular tool during the industrial revolution, as the automated process of stitching saved time and ultimately money. The first patent taken out on a sewing machine was in 1790, by the Englishman Thomas Saint. His design, which enabled the user to stitch canvas or leather, was never put in to production. Barthélemy Thimonnier advanced Saint’s original design in the nineteenth century: by 1841 he had eighty machines in a factory producing uniforms for the French army.
The domestication of the sewing machine took place around the 1850s, as the ‘Sewing Machine War’ took place over patents in the United States. In 1856 The Sewing Machine Combination was instigated and companies (namely Singer) began to produce machines that were affordable to keep in the home. Sewing machines were further developed by electronic technology in the early 1900s and in 1987 Orisol produced the first computerised machine. Despite the utilisation of digital technologies, the sewing machine became redundant in most contemporary homes thanks to the availability of cheap ready-made clothing. There are, however, indications that the fate of the sewing machine is not yet sealed, for sales figures have grown over the past year. Analysts suggest this is may be a response to financial decline and a growing ethical awareness about the manufacture of clothes.
The answering machine has existed since 1898. Vlademar Poulsen patented the Telegraphone, a device which records sound on steel wire. Since then, many different forms of the answering machine have been created, but it was only in the 1980s that it became commercially available to everyone. The device automatically answers the phone, after a few ring tones, and the message is recorded on tape. The answering machine, as a separate object, ceased to exist with the introduction of voicemail--a system permitting the answering machine to be a part of the telephone itself.
The Scopitone was created in the year 1960 by the factory CAMECA (Compagnie d’Applications Mécaniques à l’Electronique au Cinéma et à l’Automistique). It was a machine designed to have the same function as a jukebox, the only difference being that it has a television screen showing a film created specifically to accompany one song. The Scopitone is the ancestor of MTV. Consisting of 36 films in colour and in black and white, the music films could be played continually, as one film would rewind while the next one was playing. The Scopitone was exclusively designed for cafés in France. The 16mm films made for the Scopitone were not shown on television. The production of Scopitone films came to an end in 1974.
Video below shows Serge Gainsbourg clicking along to a Scopitone in 1965
The incandescent light bulb is gradually being banned across Europe and being replaced with energy-efficient alternatives. The traditional lightbulb has been dealt a mortal blow and will soon die. The demise of the traditional lightbulb has, however, encountered a surprising amount of resistence. Newspaper letters pages have been filled with arguments in the incandescent light bulb's defense and complaints about the deficiencies of their energy-efficient replacements. The incandescent bulb is, I would argue, a thing of simplicity and beauty. Switching on a lightbulb makes us visualise the electrical energy that flows around our homes. The film camera has long been atttracted to the lightbulb that symbolises the electrical dreams of modernity. This still from Alfred Hitchcock's Sabotage
(1936) is one of many in a film which starts with a power cut caused by a saboteur.
For the film look here: http://www.archive.org/details/Sabotage1936