Invented Earlier than You’d Think – Pt. 2 – Answering Machines

If you missed it, check out the first post of the series: Fax Machines

I’d seen a lot of answering machines in later magazines but I was pretty surprised to see this one in a 1924 Popular Mechanics. It even features a dial indicator that shows how many calls the owner has missed.


Device Answers Phone and Tells Caller When You Will Return to Office (Aug, 1932)
This later product called the “Ansophone” is a an answering machine in the literal sense of the word. It will answer the phone and play a message to the caller, but it doesn’t record any incoming messages.


The Perfect Secretary—a Machine (Apr, 1933)
This gigantic contraption seems to be functionally equivalent to the first machine above. You’d think after almost a decade that the technology would allow a smaller device, not a bigger one. I’m guessing that it probably worked a lot better though.


  1. jayessell says: June 17, 20084:57 pm

    At the end of the 1975 “Doc Savage: Man of Bronze” movie there’s a teaser for “Doc Savage II”.

    The team is away from the penthouse but the 1936 era answering machine (presumably built by Electrical engineer Major Thomas J. “Long Tom” Roberts. ) takes a message:

    “Your voice is being recorded mechanically. Speak now.”

    Doc! Millions are going to die! Acck!

    (Thanks for nothing IMDB memorable quotes!)

    The machine had both outgoing and incoming message disks, acoustically coupled to the phone
    because THE PHONE COMPANY frowned on modifications to their equipment.

  2. Mike Brown says: June 18, 20086:37 am

    Believe it or not, Valdemar Poulsen of Copenhagen, Denmark, got a US patent on a telephone answering machine in 1900 – twenty four years earlier than the Popular Mechanics article. It was number 661,619, and used a wire recorder – “by providing a suitable apparatus in combination with a telephone, communications can be received by the apparatus when the subscriber is absent, whereas upon his return he can cause the communications to be repeated by the apparatus.”

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