Telephone Answering Machine Component

Telephone Answering Machine Component

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Description (Brief)
The origin of magnetic recording can be traced to design work by Oberlin Smith of the United States in 1878. After seeing a demonstration of Thomas Edison’s phonograph, Smith thought about how to record sound using a magnetic medium. After ten years of failing to make a working model, Smith published his idea in the hope that someone else might benefit. Valdemar Poulsen of Denmark read Smith’s idea and in 1898 demonstrated the first practical magnetic recorder, a telephone answering machine he called a “telegraphone.” Various companies sold telegraphones for about ten years but microphone and amplification technology were not sufficiently developed to support the device. Poulsen turned to radio experiments in 1902.
The telegraphone spurred others to continue development of magnetic recording devices. Much early work took place in Germany where the telephone manufacturing firm of Ferdinand Schuchard hired engineer Semi Begun to work on circuit design. Begun became interested in magnetic recording and while working for Lorenz Company helped to design a new answering machine, the “Textophone.” Introduced in 1933, the textophone sold well since it could also be used as a dictating machine.
The Textophone consisted of two units: a telephone desk set, and this recording and playback console. The recording mechanism passed a steel wire from one reel to another in front of an electromagnet that impressed a magnetic field on the wire. When the wire was passed back in front of the electromagnet, a signal was induced in the speaker circuit. The desk set operated as a regular telephone but also includes control buttons for the recorder.
Currently not on view
Object Name
recording device
answering machine
date made
ca 1935
C. Lorenz AG
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
metal (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 48 in x 24 in x 12 in; 121.92 cm x 60.96 cm x 30.48 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
from Ruth W. Begun, in memory of Semi J. Begun
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Magnetic Recording
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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