History

The concept of voice messaging was invented in the late 1800s by Thomas A. Edison. It would take 100 years for the concept to emerge in the commercialization of voicemail services as we know them today.  Voicemail resulted from innovations in telephone products and services made possible by developments in computer technologies during the 1970s.

The innovation began with the Motorola Pageboy, a simple "pager" or "beeper" introduced in 1974.  Pagers were generally offered in conjunction with answering services that handled busy / no-answer overloads and after hours calls for businesses and professionals.  Operators wrote down a caller's message,  sent a page alert and when their party called back, the operator delivered their message.

With the introduction of voice pagers, operators could broadcast directly to their party.  However, messages were untimely in many circumstances and privacy issues as well as the high cost eventually caused the demise of these services.   By the mid 1970s digital storage and analog to digital conversion devises had emerged and paging companies began recording client messages.  Operators recorded a short message (5-6 seconds, e.g. "call home") and the messages were delivered automatically when the client called the exchange.

Innovators began experimenting with digitized voice solutions as larger, faster and less expensive storage devices became available, setting the stage for commercialization of a broad spectrum of voice products including voicemail.

For articles, periodicals and books covering the Voicemail history click here.

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