Since jukeboxes have been a relevant part of American popular culture for nearly 100 years, there have been many different models and different levels of technology. However, through decades of changes in style and technology, the operation of jukeboxes has remained the same.
One absolute constant of the jukebox in all of its manifestations is the pay-for-play policy. From the earliest coin-slot phonographs, through the dime-a-play units of the sixties, all the way up to the dollar-swallowing digital jukeboxes of today, the first step with any jukebox is paying.
The process of actually selecting a song was essentially the same in all of the early-model jukeboxes. The available music selections are categorized by letters and numbers. Customers punch in the letters and numbers corresponding to their selection, and, within seconds, you can hear Richie Valens belting out "La Bamba."
Early jukeboxes that were stocked with 45-rpm records did not necessarily play the selections in order. Those models were constructed in such a way that they could only play the "A" sides of the 45s first, then they would play all the "B" sides.
In the 1980s, the burgeoning years of the digital age, jukeboxes traded up from vinyl records to digital compact discs. In spite of the new technology, the operation of jukeboxes remained much the same. Most models still favored the traditional letter-and-number format for selecting songs.
The biggest change in the operation of jukeboxes has come in the past decade. Now, most establishments have completely digital jukeboxes. Instead of rows of letters and numbers with clunky buttons, jukebox users now navigate the available music using an interactive touch screen.
Along with the interactive touch screen, the new digital jukeboxes have the ability to download almost any music from a central database using the Internet.