Block of the Week: Jukebox

Listen to this! Er, we mean… read this!

How do you turn a Minecraft house into a home? A warm hearth, a carpeted floor and some pictures on the walls all help. But for me, the crowning glory of a well-appointed residence is a jukebox.

Jukeboxes were added to Minecraft in seventh Seecret Friday update in July 2010, alongside chickens and eggs (but which came first?). They don't do much, but what they do they do pretty well - right-click one with a music disc, and it'll play it. Oh, and on the console editions you'll get an achievement too.

Music discs can be found in different places around the world - dungeon and woodland mansion chests contain some, while others are dropped by creepers killed by a skeleton's arrow. There are twelve to collect, all of which were composed by Minecraft's musical genius Daniel Rosenfeld, better known as C418. Can you find them all?

Jukeboxes are made in Minecraft by surrounding a diamond in a crafting grid with wooden planks. Why a diamond? Well, real-world jukeboxes are a direct descendent of Thomas Edison's phonograph, an early record player invented in 1877 that dragged a diamond-tipped needle over a rotating disc to produce sound.

In 1890, inventors Louis Glass and William Arnold created a coin-operated phonograph, which would play from a selection of music chosen by the listener. The name "jukebox" itself came a lot later, though - around 1940, when coin-operated phonographs were commonly found in "juke joints" in the southeastern United States.

They hit their heyday in the 1950s, when a massive three-quarters of all records produced in the United States went into jukeboxes! The popularity of the jukebox came alongside the rise of rock and roll music, which morphed into pop music in the 1960s. You can trace a direct line from the jukeboxes that your parents and grandparents listened to, to the music that you listen to today.

Over the years, jukeboxes also got more and more sophisticated. Some included song-popularity counters, so unpopular songs could be replaced. Others had remote controls that let people choose music from their table or booth, without having to get up and walk over to the machine itself.

Jukeboxes began to fade away with the invention of the portable radio and cassette tape deck. Despite the invention of CD jukeboxes in the 1980s and 1990s, and MP3 jukeboxes in the 2000s, the technology fell out of favour in most bars and restaurants. Today, it's more common for these places to run music from a mobile phone or computer.

But in the world of Minecraft, jukeboxes are still going strong. The next update to the computer edition of the game, coming pretty soon, introduces parrots. Tame one and put it near a jukebox playing a song for a special surprise. And it's even possible to create a light-up dancefloor that flashes different patterns when different songs are played. How about that for a construction challenge?