Alexander Graham Bell – yes that one – also invented an early office device derived from the history of the phonograph. Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter sold their first Dictaphone in 1899. A bit like Edison, they recorded dictated sound on a wax cylinder. Since Bell had invented the telephone, he may have names his new device “Dictaphone” as opposed to “Dictagraph”.
History of Using Shorthand
The offices of the late 19th century had required the use of shorthand by their clerical staff for a number of reasons.
First, the pace of business was increasing rapidly in the late 19th century. As businesses grew larger and more complex, there was a need for a way to quickly and accurately record dictation. Shorthand allowed clerical staff to do this, and it quickly became an essential skill for anyone working in an office.
Second, the use of shorthand helped to improve efficiency in the workplace. By allowing clerical staff to take dictation quickly and accurately, businesses were able to save time and money. This was especially important in the late 19th century, when businesses were under increasing pressure to compete in a global economy.
Third, the use of shorthand helped to improve communication in the workplace. By being able to take dictation quickly and accurately, clerical staff were able to relay messages to their supervisors and colleagues more quickly and efficiently. This improved communication helped to ensure that everyone in the workplace was on the same page, which was essential for the smooth running of a business.
There were several shorthand systems in use in the late 19th century, but the most popular was Gregg shorthand. Gregg shorthand was developed in the 1880s by John Robert Gregg, and it quickly became the standard shorthand system in the United States.
There were a number of different ways to learn Gregg shorthand. Some people took classes, while others learned by reading books or by practicing with a friend. There were also a number of shorthand schools that offered training in Gregg shorthand.
Once a person had learned Gregg shorthand, they could use it to take dictation in the office. Dictation was typically done by a secretary or stenographer, who would sit down with a supervisor or other person who needed to dictate something. The secretary would then use shorthand to record the dictation, which could then be transcribed into a final document.
Shorthand was a valuable skill for clerical staff in the late 19th century. It allowed them to take dictation quickly and accurately, which was essential for the smooth running of a business.
Advantages of Dictaphone over Shorthand
The Dictaphone improved upon the old system of using shorthand in a number of ways.
First, the Dictaphone allowed for more accurate dictation. Shorthand is a skill that takes time to learn and master, and even the best stenographers can make mistakes. The Dictaphone, on the other hand, was able to record dictation perfectly, every time.
Second, the Dictaphone allowed for more efficient dictation. With shorthand, a stenographer had to take dictation in real time, which could be difficult to do if the speaker was talking quickly or if there was a lot of background noise. The Dictaphone, on the other hand, allowed the speaker to dictate at their own pace, and the stenographer could then transcribe the recording later when at the typewriter.
Third, the Dictaphone allowed for more flexibility in dictation. With shorthand, a stenographer had to be physically present to take dictation. The Dictaphone, on the other hand, could be used to record dictation remotely, which gave businesses more flexibility in how they operated.
Fourth, the Dictaphone was more affordable than shorthand training. Shorthand training can be expensive. It could take years to learn how to take dictation quickly and accurately. The Dictaphone, on the other hand, was a one-time purchase that could be used by anyone.
Overall, the Dictaphone was a major improvement over the old system of using shorthand. It was more accurate, efficient, flexible, affordable, and portable. As a result, the Dictaphone reduced the use of shorthand for taking dictation in offices around the world.
Bell and Edison Technologies
The phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877, and it was originally intended to be a toy. The Dictaphone was invented by Bell and Tainter in 1881. It started out as a business tool.
The phonograph worked by using a needle to vibrate in response to sound waves. The needle was attached to a diaphragm, which is a thin membrane that vibrates when sound waves hit it. The diaphragm is connected to a horn, which amplifies the sound waves and makes them audible.
The Dictaphone worked by using a carbon microphone to convert sound waves into electrical signals. The electrical signals are then amplified and stored on a wax cylinder or magnetic tape. The wax cylinder or magnetic tape can then be played back to reproduce the original sound.
Conflicts Between the Dictaphone and the Phonograph
There were some conflicts between the Dictaphone technology and Edison’s phonograph. One conflict was over the patent rights for the two devices. Edison claimed that the Dictaphone infringed on his patent for the phonograph, while Bell and Tainter claimed that their device was different enough to be considered its own invention. The conflict was eventually resolved in court, with Bell and Tainter being awarded the patent for the Dictaphone.
Another conflict between the two technologies was over the quality of the recordings. The phonograph was originally limited in its ability to reproduce high-quality sound. This was because the needle used to record the sound waves was relatively large and could not accurately reproduce the finer details of the sound. The Dictaphone, on the other hand, used a much smaller microphone that could reproduce sound waves with greater accuracy. This made the Dictaphone a more desirable device for business use, where high-quality recordings were essential.
The first Dictaphones used wax cylinders to store sound. These cylinders were fragile and had to be handled carefully, but they offered good sound quality. In the 1930s, Dictaphones began to use magnetic tape, which was more durable and offered even better sound quality. Magnetic tape Dictaphones became the standard for many years, but they were eventually replaced by digital Dictaphones in the 1990s.
Digital Dictaphones offer several advantages over magnetic tape Dictaphones. They are more durable, they have a longer recording capacity, and they offer better sound quality. Digital Dictaphones are also easier to use, and they can be easily transferred to computers and other devices.
Dictaphones have helped to improve the efficiency of communication in the workplace. They are still used today and continue to evolve with new technology. With new speech-recognition capabilities, they now can eliminate yet another step in transcribing dictation.
Here is a more detailed history of the Dictaphone:
1881: Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter invent the first Dictaphone.
1899: The first commercial Dictaphone is released.
1930s: Dictaphones begin to use magnetic tape.
1947: Company introduced the Dictabelt
1990s: Digital Dictaphones replace magnetic tape Dictaphones.
Here are the companies that have owned the rights to the Dictaphone brand over the years:
- American Graphophone Company (1881-1888)
- United States Phonograph Company (1888-1895)
- North American Phonograph Company (1895-1902)
- Columbia Graphophone Company (1902-1932)
- Dictaphone Corporation (1932-1985)
- American Telephone & Telegraph (1985-1992)
- Pitney Bowes (1992-2007)
- Nuance Communications (2007- and Beyond)
- Year Started: 1899
- Year Ended: 2099
- Origin Of Name: “Dictation” and the misuse of the word “Telephone” – Possibly caused by Bell
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner Tainter
- Owner While In Use: Several
- Owner Successor: Nuance Communications
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Dictaphone
- Naics Code: 512290
- Location Headquarters: Washington, D.C. USA