t was 1935, and the telephone had changed the way in which people communicated and did business. There was one major shortcoming though – telephone owners would have to wait around for calls, and missed calls were permanently lost. Benjamin Thornton created a device
that could be attached to a telephone and could be set to record a voice message from a caller. By utilizing a clock attachment, the machine could also forward the messages as well as keep track of the time they were made. But Thornton wasn’t done yet. The etiquette around leaving voice messages had not been developed, and novice phone owners often forgot to give complete messages in their haste and excitement. For example, an urgent message could be left, but if the speaker did not include a time or date, the urgency would be lost, and the message would be rendered ineffective. To stop this from happening, Thornton included a clock mechanism that would alert people to the time that the missed call was made, and the message left. This device was the predecessor of today’s answering machine.
- #1,831,331, 11/10/1931, Apparatus for automatically recording telephonic messages
- #1,843,849, 2/2/1932, Apparatus for automatically transmitting messages over a telephone line
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