Shigeichi Negishi, Inventor of the Original Karaoke Machine, Dies at 100

Negishi’s never-patented 1967 Sparko Box was the first version of what would eventually become the karaoke machine

Photo: Sydney Brasil

BY Kaelen BellPublished Mar 15, 2024

We at Exclaim! have a well-documented love of karaoke, so it’s with a heavy heart and much gratitude that I share that Japanese entrepreneur Shigeichi Negishi — the man who invented the first-ever karaoke machine — died on January 26 at 100 years old. 

Negishi’s daughter confirmed her father’s death to journalist Matt Alt, stating that her father died from natural causes after a fall. Alt interviewed Negishi for his book Pure Invention: How Japan Made the Modern World.

Negishi was the creator of the Sparko Box, the unofficial prototype for what would become the global phenomenon that is the karaoke machine. Negishi, who reportedly loved to sing along to the radio and TV, was the head of an electronics company when he first dreamed up the machine in 1967. He eventually had one of his employees wire together a speaker, tape deck and microphone, testing the prototype with an instrumental version of Yoshio Kodama’s “Mujo no Yume.” 

In a 2020 interview with Alt, Negishi explained that his original name for the Sparko Box was actually “karaoke” — a contraction of the Japanese words for “empty” and “orchestra” — but was shot down because the word sounded too much like “kanoke,” which means coffin. 

Negishi’s Sparko Box was never patented, though he spent time selling the machine on the road, driving around Japan and holding demonstrations at bars, restaurants and hotels. He sold roughly 8,000 Sparko Boxes between its invention in 1967 and 1975.

Alt reports that Negishi’s family owns the sole remaining — and still functioning! — Sparko Box.

Pour one out for Negishi and hit up a karaoke bar this weekend in his honour. 

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