Come to think of what people were using to communicate before the invention of the telephone. How do you think people were recording messages before phones and voicemails? The urge to record messages saw scientists and inventors come with great inventions to help the public communicate and record messages.

And one of the first inventions was the telephone answering machine. The need to invent the answering machine saw a group of researchers change the telecom industry.

History of the Telephone Answering Machine

The first answering machine to be invented in 1898 by Valdemar Poulsen was called the telegraphone. This answering machine looked quite different from the modern recording devices you might come across. It looks more like a hand-crank pasta machine rather than an answering machine. Telephone conversations started with this answering machine.

This machine used a wire to record various magnetic fields, hence producing sound. Listeners would then get the chance to play back the sound via magnetic wire. After the invention of the telegraphone by Poulsen, until 1914, Thomas Edison created the Telescribe, which took quite some time before the invention of Poulsen’s telegraphone.

After the Edison invention, then followed by Truman Steven, who created the Phonograph in 1925. Both Telescribe and Phonograph weren’t successful, but that didn’t stop these great thinkers from coming with other models. They later launched a technology that gave telephone devices a new whole look.

Developments of Telephone Answering Machine

Mr Willy Muller invented the first automatic answering machine in 1935.  This three-foot-tall was popular among the Orthodox Jews who weren’t allowed to answer the phone on their Sabbath day. It later took the intervention of Mr Willy Muller to allow Swiss company also to introduce their answering version called Isophone.

The Isophone invention was welcomed by both business offices and telecom industries looking forward to embracing the new invention. However, this answering machine’s large size and high price didn’t allow it to stay long in the market. After its exit, the United States immediately introduced their commercial telephone version called Tel-Magnet. Tel-Magnet also slugged behind because of its high price tag.

With the exit of these pricey answering machines, it was not going to stop there. Dr. Kazuo Hashimoto also tried out his invention. The Ansafone invention of Dr Kazuo looked like a game-changer in the answering machine industry. It was largely accepted and sold in the USA in 1960.

After the production of Ansafone, the answering machines now became very popular, with quite a number of non-portable coming into the limelight. This made Hashimoto develop a high-tech device that can make the device more functional.

Impact of Second World War on Answering Machine

The emergence of sales answering machines such as Electronic Secretary happened after the Second World War. This was due to the demands by businesses, prompting Bell Operating Companies to start leasing answering machines in 1950. Cost reduction in answering machines in the 1970s improved their demand as they gained recognition by featuring in television shows and motion pictures.

After the dissolution of AT&T in 1984, local companies that were still operating stopped enforcing restrictions on answering machine use. This made the sales go up during that period dramatically. And by the mid-1990s, many households owned telephone answering machines.

Digitization of Telephone Answering Machine

The first industry to introduce a commercial answering machine was the modern telephone answering machine industry you see today. Casio Communications created the industry. The viable answering machine you see today is a great work by Phonemate, which resulted in Model 400. It was created in 1971.

The Model could hold twenty messages on a reel-to-reel tape, thanks to its ten pounds weight. To retrieve private messages, you can use an earphone. The answering machine became more popular in the 1970s, courtesy of microelectronics cheaper than their previous counterparts.

Apart from becoming popular, the prices of answering machines also were quite low and favorable. However, the introduction of mobile phones and voicemails saw the exit of answering machines from the market. Mobile phones and voicemails were more advanced and convenient, rendering the answering machine to be worthless.


No matter how good answering machines were, advancement in technology has played a great role in pushing them away from the market. They became obsolete, opening the way for new automated programs which took the market by a storm. But one thing you cannot rule out is that the answering machine was very important in the past because it was the only way to keep crucial information.


When was the first telephone answering machine invented?

The first telephone answering machine was invented in 1898 by inventor Valdemar Poulsen. It was called the telegraphone and used magnetic wire to record messages.

Who made the first commercial telephone answering machines?

The first commercially distributed telephone answering machine was the Electronic Secretary made by Bell Labs and Dictaphone in the 1930s.

When did telephone answering machines become popular in homes and businesses?

Answering machines started gaining popularity in homes and businesses in the 1970s and 1980s as prices became more affordable for consumers.

What company led the answering machine market in the 1980s?

In the 1980s, Sony led the answering machine market with innovative features and affordable prices that helped drive widespread home adoption.

How did digital technologies impact telephone answering machines?

Digital technologies allowed manufacturers to make answering machines smaller while offering more advanced features in the 1990s like multiple outgoing messages.

What market trends contributed to the decline of standalone answering machines?

The rise of voicemail systems and mobile phones that could record messages caused a decline in demand for standalone answering machines starting in the 2000s.

How have modern smartphones impacted the telephone answering machine industry?

Smartphones with built-in voicemail functionality have largely replaced the need for separate telephone answering machines in the 2010s.

What features distinguished early market leaders like Sony?

Early Sony answering machines stood out for high-quality audio, intuitive controls, smaller sizes and sleek aesthetics that appealed to consumers.

Which companies today continue manufacturing telephone answering machines?

While diminished, companies manufacturing answering machines today include AT&T, ClearSounds, IntelliTouch, Sylvania, and Panasonic.

What legacy did the telephone answering machine leave on business communications?

The telephone answering machine transformed business communications by allowing office calls to be recorded and returned at the most convenient times.

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I am an avid Mac-user, nerd, musician, freelancer, and gamer. Ask me about my collection of M:TG cards! I've also got a horrible habit of needing the absolute newest technological wonder, whether it's stable or not. If they made a home-version of the LHC, I'd have 2. Additionally, I've been playing music for the better part of 14 years. I'm self-taught on piano, guitar, trumpet, trombone, sax, clarinet, bass, drums and other percussion, and around 10 other instruments. I also spend quite a bit of time dabbling in synthesizers, sequencers, and samplers. I'm also founder of Quotelicious where I collect and share the quotes I love.


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