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Dead medium: Telephonic Jukeboxes: The Shyvers Multiphone, the Phonette Melody Lane, the AMI Automatic

Hostess, the Rock-Ola Mystic Music System

From: Bruce Sterling
Source(s): Telephone Collecting, Seven Decades of Design (With Price Guide) by Kate E. Dooner 1993 Schiffer Publishing Company, 77 Lower Valley Road, Atgen, Pennsylvania 19810
ISBN 0-88740-489-8

(((A handsomely produced outsized paperback with dozens of

chop-licking glossy photographs of extinct telephone

models and associated collectible ephemera.)))

page 95


"The 'multiphone' was created in 1939 by Kenneth C.

Shyvers and his wife, Lois. They were operators of 'juke'

boxes who found that 'multiphones' allowed a greater

number of songs to be played. Whereas juke boxes played

only 20 selections, the 'multiphone' could play up to 170


"'Multiphones' came to be installed in cafes and

taverns in each booth or along the bar. The system

required two leased telephone lines, one for the

'multiphones' and the other for the loudspeakers on the

wall where the music played. The wired music system

worked by inserting money, a nickel originally and later a

dime. A feminine voice asked for your song number, and

you responded. Soon you were listening to the music from

the loudspeakers on the wall, which was connected to a

central, record playing station.

"Eventually, juke boxes were remodelled to play 180

tunes on 45 rpm records. The 'multiphone' system could

not compete with them economically, and the system went

out of business in 1959."

(((Page 103 features two handsome illustrations of

multiphone technology. The first is a Shyvers Multiphone,

a hefty, towering gadget in stylish Art Deco cast

aluminum. It has a speaker-grille in the bottom, a coin-

slot for dimes, and what appears to be a rotating printed

menu of "new releases." The second device is a

"Phonette Melody Lane" from the Personal Music Corporation

of Newark, New Jersey. A modest device with a squat

rectangular grille, it declares in embossed lettering:




Source(s): American Jukebox, the Classic Years by Vincent Lynch, photography by Kaz Tsuruta, Chronicle Books, San

Francisco 1990
ISBN 0-87701-722-0, ISBN 0-87701-678-X paperback

(((A lavishly illustrated work of eerie beauty which

showcases an audacious twentieth-century mix of industrial

design, American popular culture and pure swaggering

kitsch. Surely "Bakelite Psychedelia" could find no

higher expression that the 1941 Rock-Ola Spectravox.)))

"Manufacturers continued to experiment with new ways to

deliver music to patrons. In 1939, AMI introduced the

Automatic Hostess telephone system and in 1941 Rock-Ola

invented the Mystic Music System. Both were jukeboxes in

every way except that there was no phonograph mechanism.

After depositing a coin, the patron spoke into a

microphone to an operator who would play the selection;

the music returned over the phone lines to the speaker.

The systems proved unsuccessful for AMI and Rock-Ola, but

the idea worked for the Shyver Multiphone Co., which

operated in Seattle, Tacoma, and Olympia Washington, from

1939 to 1959."

A cousin medium to the telephone jukebox is very much

alive today, though it is vastly more expensive, much

smaller in variety, is limited to one person, and offers

mere samples of songs.

Source(s): WIRED magazine June 1996 issue

page 167

"MUSIC ACCESS. If you'd like to hear excerpts from

these discs, call 900-454-3277 (95 cents per minute).

Touch tone required. US only. Under 18? Get parent's

permission. When prompted: Enter access code (under the

name of the artist). Music controls: 3 = Fast forward, 4

= Louder, 5 = Softer, * = Exit music/bypass most prompts.

A charge of 95 cents per minute will appear on your phone

bill. An average call is about 2.5 minutes."