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Kenneth C. Shyvers

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Macintosh TV on the Cover of the January 1994 issue of Macworld 1

Kenneth C. Shyvers, an inventor from Seattle, is best known for the creation of the Multiphone, an early version of a coin-operated restaurant jukebox that could hold up to 170 songs and required two telephone lines. He developed the product with his wife Lois in 1939, gaining a patent for its coin control device one-year prior. It was not until 1946/47 that he patented the music box itself. The product's design shows that Shyvers found inspiration from New York architecture, namely the Empire State Building. Although, the original Pre-War model of the music box (then called the "Music -Phone" more resembled a rocket ship. This design change might have been due to an increase in Shyvers' desire to show patriotism in the years after the war, or his ideas of what would appeal more to the costumers at the time. Shyvers is also known for his work on early interactive gaming machines. In 1936, he and fellow inventor Lyn Durrant designed one of the first "score totalizers," an aspect of gaming technology that is still prevalent today.

History of the Coin-Operated Phonograph

The Multiphone played an important role in the evolution of the jukebox, an invention that grew to become a staple of its time and is still often used in cafes and restaurants to recreate the temporality of the mid 20th century. The first recorded coin operated phonograph was presented in 1889, in a public demonstration at the Palais Royal Restaurant in San Francisco. Louis T. Glass, the operator of this initial model, is credited as “the father of the concept,” and went on to hold high offices at several telephone and telegraph companies. By 1891, the United States Patent Office had already registered 18 patents for phonograph coin control devices. Soon, Thomas Alva Edison gained business connections to the rising trend, and between 1900 and 1907 he released over 10 different models. The cafes, restaurants and bars that started housing the coin-operated phonographs became known as “juke-joints.” This term (along with the term “juke box”) started in the South, and was brought up with the northern migration of African-American workers in the early 20th century. It wasn’t until the late 1930s that the terms were released of the stigma of being considered ‘black’ terms and gained spots in the official vocabulary. The music boxes developed before 1900 each offered only one song selection, but soon models such as the “Gomber Multiplex” which could hold up to 12 songs, reached the market. In 1925/26, electrically recorded 78rpm records were released, solving amplification issues and changing the market. In the late 1930s, the market for the jukebox grew as it acted a source entertainment to help the public escape the possibility of war and the effects of the great depression. Companies such as the Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. and the J.P. Seeburg Corp. became some of the primary competitors in jukebox production, creating new models and finding fiscal success in the process.

The Multimedia Mac

The Macintosh TV emerged during an intense interest in multimedia, visual computing and interactive programming within Silicon Valley, and it can be understood as a product of this larger paradigm. The fixation on multimedia by companies in Silicon Valley was the subject of a feature article in The Economist in September 1994, titled “Screen Test.” Its author, Peter Haynes, describes how a number of companies, such as Silicon Graphics, Intel, AT&T and Apple were researching and investing in new technologies, such as interactive TV (in the form of video-on-demand), PC and the TV combinations (like the Macintosh TV), and CD-ROM/online products (like Microsoft’s “Complete Baseball” which provided daily scores downloads of the latest stats along with static information on the disk), along with further expanding the infrastructure needed to deliver increased content, such as fiber-optic cable systems. Throughout the article, there is an acknowledgment that both the television and the personal computer would share more of each other’s qualities as they developed, a position Bill Gates himself declares in a conversation with Haynes. The Macintosh TV is but one moment in this history and, while it was unable to deliver the desktop and the television simultaneously, it did provide them within the same package.

The Haynes article also quotes Apple representative Satjiv Chahil as stating that in 1994, after successfully developing a “desktop-publishing market” that the company aimed to create a “desktop-studio market.” (Haynes, 1994) The term “studio” recalls recording studio, television studio, and art studio – all spaces for the production of audio and visual material. In this quote, it seems that Chahil is signaling a shift from the word processing and accounting focus of personal computers in the 1980s to an environment that would encourage increased use of tools for graphic design, recording, and the moving image. This is not to say that these programs did not exist before, but rather that clearly, in the early 1990s, Apple wanted to expand these capabilities in their products.

The graphical user interface (GUI) was a key component in allowing a desktop environment to flourish, and the interactive approach it established underlies both desktop-publishing and a desktop-studio. Anne Friedberg in The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft argues that the graphical user interface (GUI) introduced a new visual system that obscured above, below, ahead and behind in way that challenges the depth of traditional Renaissance perspective and allows multiple perspectives in a single frame. (Friedberg, 2-3) Given the GUI design, one could understand why users of the Macintosh TV were frustrated by the fact that they could not view television in another window on their desktop, as they were accustomed to viewing applications within multiple, layered windows. Perhaps television had to be remediated as a window amongst many windows for the GUI environment, and it seems, in allowing television to be viewed in a window on the desktop, the Quadra 630 directly addressed this.

Front Row and the Macintosh TV

Front Row

The Macintosh TV’s capacity to “switch” between a television and a desktop has not entirely disappeared. This “switching” mechanism is remediated in programs such as Front Row. The software was first introduced in the iMac G5 in 2005, and it allows the user to switch between programs such as iTunes, iPhoto and iMovie using a remote control or keyboard. When activated, it leaves the desktop and opens to a dark screen, where large icons represent programs that can be selected by a remote or keyboard.

The original press release for Front Row emphasizes the fact that the program allows the user to access and navigate programs on the desktop from 30 feet away, using a remote control.2 The Macintosh TV also came with a remote control, and perhaps this "switching" mechanism can be related back to the remote control as the primary motor for navigating amongst various programs. The remote control only allows movement back and forth, hence the paired down interface of Front Row, as well as the more crude switching between television and desktop in the Macintosh TV.


Associated Press, "Apple tests market with computer-TV," The Windsor Star, Oct 26, 1993. pg. C.6, Final Edition

Associated Press, "Apple unveils multimedia device Computer, TV, stereo combined," The Globe and Mail, Oct 26, 1993. pg. B.29

Crotty, Cameron, "It's a Mac! It's a TV! Film at eleven!" Macworld, Jan 1994. Vol. 11, Iss. 1; pg. 34

Friedberg, Anne, The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft, Boston: MIT Press, 2006.

Haynes, Peter, "Screen Test," The Economist, September 17 1994, v. 332 p. survey 17-20

Heid, Jim, "Macintosh TV," Macworld, April 1994. Vol. 11, Iss. 4; pg. 57

Heid, Jim, "The Multimedia Mac," Macworld, September 1994, Vol. 11, p. 98-103

Mossberg, Walter S., "Personal Technology," Wall Street Journal, Nov 4, 1993. pg. PAGEB.1, Eastern edition

Video of the Macintosh TV in operation: