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Inventor of karaoke, Shigeichi Negishi, dies aged 100

The Japanese engineer never patented his design, assuming it to be “too much hassle”

  • 16 March 2024
Inventor of karaoke, Shigeichi Negishi, dies aged 100

Shigeichi Negishi, the Japanese engineer who designed the first ever karaoke machine, has died aged 100, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Negishi’s daughter Atsumi Takano told WSJ journalist Matt Alt that he had suffered a fall, and died of natural causes shortly after on January 26. He was 100 years old.

The Tokyo-born designer invented the first prototype karaoke machine in 1967 which he called the Sparko Box, an automated machine which required instrumental tapes to run.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Negishi enjoyed singing and had wondered what he would sound like with a backing track after a colleague joked that he had a bad voice, prompting the idea for the invention.

At the time he invented the Sparko Box, Negishi ran a consumer electronics assembly business. He was previously conscripted into the Japanese military and was imprisoned in Singapore as a prisoner of war.

While imprisoned, Negishi learnt English and would use this in his trade as an engineer. At his company, he designed a device using a speaker, microphone, and tape deck, becoming the first karaoke machine as we know it today.

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Despite his pioneering invention, Negishi did not patent the design thinking it would be “too much hassle”, the National News reported, seeing as it required instrumental tracks to run.

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Other pioneers who are thought to have advanced karaoke include nightclub worker Daisuke Inoue who recorded his own versions of tracks to use on an independently invented machine, and Toshiharu Yamashita, a singing coach who sold an 8-track playback deck to sing along to.

The karaoke machine would become increasingly popular in Japan in the 1970s, picked up by nightclubs and bars across the country, before it became global in the ‘80s.

[Via Wall Street Journal]

Gemma Ross is Mixmag's Assistant Editor, follow her on Twitter

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