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The History of Voicemail

The Invention of Voice Mail

Voice mail was the brainchild of Gordon Mathews, a successful entrepreneur who held 35 US and foreign patents at the time of his death on February 23, 2002. 

In the late seventies Matthews began working on the technology that would eventually be called "voicemail."  In 1979, Matthews took his technology and formed a company called VMX, which stands for Voice Message Express. He applied for a patent in 1979 to cover his voicemail invention and sold the first system to 3M.  A few years later, in 1982 the patent for his invention was awarded.  His "Voice Message Exchange" managed electronic messages in a digital format.  (As a side note: Mathews' wife, Monika, recorded the first greeting on this first commercial voicemail.) 

Matthews eventually left VMX in 1989. The company had hit rough financial waters and VMX was later sold to Octel Communications, which in turn was purchased by Lucent Technologies and spun off into a new company called Avaya.  To this day, there are companies that still use VMX systems to meet their voice mail needs.   

Voice Mail for the Masses

For the first few years after voice mail had been introduced to the world, not many companies could take advantage of it.  The proprietary VMX systems were very expensive and consequently voice mail was only available to the largest corporations.  The playing field was leveled with the introduction of PC-based voice processing boards manufactured by companies like Dialogic Corporation. Dialogic Communications Corporation was founded in 1982 and quickly became an industry leading manufacturer of voice processing equipment.  Their products allowed software developers to create voice mail software that would work on industry standard personal computers.  This development significantly lowered the cost to manufacture a voice mail system and led to an explosive growth of voicemail.

Today, voice mail has become an integral part of operating a successful business.  Companies large and small rely on voicemail to efficiently and effectively communicate  with their customers.


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