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I used to have a neighbor, Mitch, who collected old phonographs. This is one that fascinated me: a Peter Pan Gramophone portable phonograph from around 1923. It looks very much like a camera of the day (and, in fact, this class of phonographs was referred to as "cameraphones"). You can't just open it and play it however; it has to be assembled first.

Outer view Here's what it looks like on the outside. Its dimensions are 6 inches high, by 7 inches long, by 4.5 inches deep. It's very small; you could take it almost anywhere. Its motor was made by the Swiss Thorens company, and was basically from a music box. The large hole in the front is where the crank goes. Below that is a knurled knob that's an on-off switch. To the left is another knurled knob, used to change the speed (78 rpm was just coming in as a standard, but there were recordings that were made at greater and lesser speeds).

Opened Here it is opened. All the parts are packed neatly inside. The thing on the extreme left (inside the top lid), which looks somewhat like a cowbell, is the speaker. The unit had no volume control (you got sound or no sound).

The pieces Here are all the various pieces. At the bottom left is the crank that will wind up the motor. The circular piece above that is the reproducer (the part that holds the needle). At the bottom right is the turntable, folded up at the moment (you'll see it expanded in a bit). Above the turntable is the tone arm. At the left, inside the lid, is the speaker and at the right, inside the base, is the post that holds the record.

Partially assembledThe reproducer has been fitted to the tone arm, and the whole assembly has been mounted on the speaker. The reproducer kind of looks like a pocket watch in this view. The needle (which hasn't been inserted yet) is held in the part that looks like the watch's stem.

The turntable Here's the four-armed "turntable," expanded and mounted on the post. The crank is in place and the machine is ready to be wound up. Great R&B is only seconds away!

Ready to play That wasn't too hard, was it? Now you're ready to sit back and enjoy your 78 collection. (You do have a 78 collection, don't you?) I'm sure that with only a few minor adjustments, this cameraphone could be adapted for playing CDs.

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