Before you could just put a drum machine app on your phone, or fire up Garage Band, there were breakthroughs like the Roland 808 drum machine. But that’s not where it all started. In 1959 a company called Wurlitzer (known for things like juke boxes, pianos, and giant pipe organs) produced a new device that had musicians worried it would put drummers out of a job: The 1959 Wurlitzer Sideman. And in the video below the break, we have the joy of watching [LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER] open up, explain, and play one of these marvelous machines.
It’s noteworthy that in 1959, almost none of the advancements we take for granted had made it out of the laboratory. Transistors? Nope. Integrated Circuits? Definitely not. What does that leave us with? Vacuum tubes (Valves for those across the pond), resistors, capacitors, relays, and… motors? Yep. Motors.
The unit is artfully constructed, and we mean that quite literally- the build was clearly done with care and it is easy to see an early example of circuit sculpture around the 3 minute mark. Electromechanical mechanisms take on tasks that we’d probably use a 555 for these days, but for any of you working on mechanical projects, take note: Wurlitzer really knew what they were doing, and there are some excellent examples of mechanical and electrical engineering throughout this primordial beat box.
Way back in the 1970s, when smog laws were choking American V8s and the oil crisis was in full swing, Wurlitzer released their Key Note Visualizer. Intended as a teaching aid, the device lit up keys on a keyboard graphic, allowing an organ player to visually demonstrate their performance to a class. [Guy Dupont] set out to replicate this hardware, but with a modern twist.
The build consists of an ESP-32, which accepts MIDI data over Bluetooth Low Energy. This is then used to light up a series of RGB LEDs on a musical staff and a keyboard graphic, corresponding to the notes being played. The LEDs used are the old-school four-wire type, rather than more modern data-driven types. They’re placed in 3D-printed holders which serve to stop the light from each LED bleeding into adjacent areas. The faceplate is made of acrylic, stencilled with that classic orange paint and with vinyl decals applied for the markings. It’s all wrapped up in a walnut case, which [Guy] CNC machined himself.
It’s a tidy build that faithfully recreates the 1970s aesthetic of the original. We plaintively wish that manufacturers would release more electronics in walnut enclosures, though ask politely that they leave cheap veneer in the past where it belongs.
What do you do when someone gives you a Wurlitzer 3100 jukebox from 1969, but keeps all the records? If you are like [Tijuana Rick], you grab an Arduino and a Rasberry Pi and turn it into a really awesome digital music player.
We’ll grant you, making a music player out of a Raspberry Pi isn’t all that cutting edge, but restoration and integration work is really impressive. The machine had many broken switches that had been hastily repaired, so [Rick] had to learn to create silicone molds and cast resin to create replacements. You can see and hear the end result in the video below.
[Rick] was frustrated with jukebox software he could find, until he found some Python code from [Thomas Sprinkmeier]. [Rick] used that code as a base and customized it for his needs.
There’s not much “how to” detail about the castings for the switches, but there are lots of photos and the results were great. We wondered if he considered putting fake 45s in the machine so it at least looked like it was playing vinyl.
Restoring a genuine vintage jukebox is a fun project, but finding suitable candidates can be a difficult proposition. Not only can a full-size machine take a huge bite out of your wallet, it can take up a lot of room, too. So a replica miniature jukebox might be just the thing.
We have to admit, at first glance [Allan_D_Murray]’s project seemed like just another juke upgrade. It was only after diving into his very detailed build log that we realized this classic-looking juke is only about 30″ (80 cm) tall. It’s not exactly diminutive, but certainly more compact than the original Wurlitzer 1015 from which it draws its inspiration. But it sure looks like the real thing. Everything is custom made, from the round-top case to the 3D-printed trim pieces, which are painted to look like chrome-plated castings. The guts of the juke are pretty much what you’d expect these days — a PC playing MP3s. But an LCD monitor occupies the place where vinyl records would have lived in the original and displays playlists of the albums available. There’s an original-looking control panel on the front, and there are even bubblers in the lighted pilasters and arches.