In the mid 1970's, voice technology emerged from the laboratory and began a journey that would eventually change the way the world communicates. Paul Finnigan, Dow Brian and Paula Paige were among those that saw an opportunity for their clinical laboratory system to deliver patient test results to physicians using a touch-ton telephone.
Frequent traveling and experience with nationwide paging added another dimension to their vision and in 1978 a demonstration voice messaging system was built using an Apple II. A year later TeleVoice International was founded and a prototype voicemail system was build using a DEC PDP-11. The command structure developed by TVI set the standards for virtually all voice messaging systems. The nationwide "Voicemail" service was introduced in May, 1980 and In 1981, the USPTO issued the Voicemail® trademark and the company changed its name to Voicemail International Inc.
VMI positioned "Voicemail®"as an enhancement to the rapidly growing paging and mobile telephone market, providing enhancements that improved the service and reduced costs by automating the delivery of messages.
The challenges included the high cost of voice storage systems, the lack of touch tone telephones, particularily in the international market; and the complexity of integrating the voicemail platform with paging systems and corporate computer databases.
The integration issue was a matter of engineering design. The touch-tone issue was solved through use of 3rd party portable dialers and the storage cost was resolved by focusing on paging and mobile solutions where airlines, movie studios and TV production companies were broadcasting a single message to thousands of pilots, flight attendants, actors and extras, all of whom carried pagers. Grocery chains were broadcasting price changes to local stores, again using page alerts to signal delivery; and there many other similar opportunities were exploited.
Integration of voicemail with paging became VMI's top priority and Intrastate Paging in Los Angeles, Ca and Radiofone in Newark, NJ were the first operators to introduce Voicemail® service. Cost became a non-issue and the innovations soon created value added services delivering news, stock quotes and product information. Eventually transaction services handled airline flight schedules, catalog shopping and even a "talking bouquet" floral service.
Paging and Mobile became the hands down winner in the global Voicemail race of the '80s and continues even today with the emergence of smart phones with delivery of voicemail, voicemail to text, music and video, virtually all of which are based on the inventions and follow the conventions developed in the 1980s.