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An answering machine is a device used for answering and recording a caller's message in the event that no one is available to answer the phone in person. Unlike voicemail, which serves the same functionality but is usually a networked or a centralized system made available anywhere as a service, an answering machine is a local device that is attached to or directly incorporated into a physical landline telephone.
An answering machine is also known as a telephone answering device, telephone answering machine, answerphone or message machine.
The answering machine uses a technique originally invented by Valdemar Poulsen in 1898 for recording telephone conversations. His device was called a telegraphone or wire recorder, which was actually used to record voice dictation and even music, but it laid the foundation for the modern answering machine. The invention of the answering machine itself is a bit unclear, with some sources claiming that it was William Muller in 1935, whereas others claimed that it was William Schergens in 1931.
The first actual commercial answering machine sold in the USA was the Tel-Magnet in 1949, which used magnetic wire to record incoming messages and play outgoing messages. But the first real answering machine that entered the mainstream was invented by Dr. Kazuo Hashimoto, who worked for Phonetel, which began selling answering machines in the United States in the 1960s. These answering machines used magnetic tape to record messages, whereas modern ones use some form of solid-state storage such as flash storage and have much more storage capacity and features such as caller identification, forwarding and waiting, to name a few.