Answering Machine

What Does Answering Machine Mean?

An answering machine, also known as a telephone answering device, telephone answering machine, answerphone, or message 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.

On the whole, traditional landlines are swiftly being replaced by Voice Over Internet Protocol services which allow you to receive or make calls from any device, and they boast various other features like call forwarding, music on hold, and automatic call transcription, which proves helpful, especially for business owners.

Techopedia Explains Answering 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, as is the case with business and VoIP home phone services, also have features such as caller identification, forwarding and waiting, to name a few.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…