Idea: The “Now” Music Box

My older sister had a music box. You know the ones. Top pops open, out pops a ballerina, out flows some tinkle-tinkle-pee song. Never understood, even when I was young, why anyone would want one. Seemed like a “girl” thing. Pink. Cute. Decoration. And completely useless. As unpolitically correct as that may come across, it was my feeling then and I’m sharing it “as-is”. And for fuck’s sake it’s okay for little boys to have judgmental and arguably sexist opinions of their big sister’s toys! We all have ridiculous beliefs at one point or another and most of us “grow out of” them. Hell, why am I even apologizing? It’s okay not to like someone’s toy. That’s why I don’t own a music box—but then again…what would it take for me to want to own one? What if I could customize my music box? And what if said music box could play an infinite number of tunes? And—wait for it—what if I could write my own?

Think about it.

You start by picking—or building—your own custom box. Throw a monster truck, Marvel Hero, stuffed kitten, or ballerina on top. Add fairy dust as appropriate. Decorate to your heart’s content.

The next bit requires some background.

So, back in the old days, way before my time, people used to program computers with things called punch cards. They’d basically take a piece of paper, like a note card, and punch holes in it. These holes represented instructions for a computer to follow. A human being, not necessarily the programmer, would feed those into the office building sized computer and voila!, three days later the computer would do something useful like calculate pi to fourteen digits.

Hey, computers have come a long way since then, cut them some slack!

Now, remember how in the really old days cowboys and ladies of the night frequented western saloons while a piano played some old rag time music in the background—but there’s no one playing the piano? Spooky, I know! But bear with me, this was an actual thing. “Player pianos”, as they were called, were essentially just big, single-task, computers that had long rolls equivalent to early computer punch cards, except that instead of the song being on multiple punch cards it was on a single roll of paper that turned as the result of a spring that had been wound, just like your average music box.

So here’s my thought.

Create a music box mechanism that, when fed a punch card, plays whatever song someone’s programmed onto that punch card. Kids can write simple songs, like Hickory Hickory Dock or the opening phrases to Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit. For those who want longer songs they can purchase and install an attachment that allows rolls to be fed through the music box’s mechanism, similar to the idea of a cassette tape, except there are no electronics in this doodad. Feed one end of the sheet music in, wind the sucker up, and flip a switch: tinkle-tinkle-pee—but it’s your own song or a song that you’ve purchased or a song someone else has romantically written for you not the same g’dm one you’ve been listening to since you were three! Better yet, have you checked out the Bluetooth mod? What does this do, you ask? It allows you to connect the music box to your phone or other electronic device and pipe the music from virtual punch cards or music rolls directly to the music box. Think that’s too “now”? How about a music box punch card printer so you can open an app, download your favorite Dr. Dre song, print out it out, and shove it up your music box?

A lot of ways you could take this idea but point is, it’d make music boxes “now” again and, like the Raspberry Pi kits that computer geeks love to tinker with, would give kids an opportunity to play and learn mechanics while potentially adding into modern tech but either way, learning the concept of what it means to teach a machine how to complete a straight forward task, in this case, play a tinkly tune, is tres cool!

Feel like using my idea to start a business? My only ask is 1% of all earnings. Seriously, that’s it.


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