Telephone Answering Machine

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Description (Brief)
While telephone answering machines date to the early twentieth century, commercial units did not begin to enter the U.S. market until the 1960s. AT&T executives feared that users might cut back on telephone use if recording devices were widely adopted. The company sought to block the introduction of answering machines even while their engineers made significant technical advances in magnetic recording technology.
This model 100 “Record-O-Phone” by Robosonics was one of the early, commercially available answering machines. Introduced in 1963, these machines cost several hundred dollars each and were aimed at business customers. The unit used a reel of plastic recording tape to record incoming messages. The unit’s cradle-arms were placed beneath the handset of a desk telephone and lifted the handset off the base in response to an incoming call. Since the unit is not electrically connected to the telephone, the user avoided sanction by the telephone company.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1964
Robosonics Inc.
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 5 in x 14 in x 10 in; 12.7 cm x 35.50006 cm x 25.4 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
from PhoneTel Communications Inc., thru Daniel Henderson
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Magnetic Recording
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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