Answering Machine

An answering machine is a device that allows incoming phone calls to be received and messages recorded when the phone user is unavailable. It may be a separate machine that is connected to a telephone or combined with a telephone to form an integrated telephone answering machine. Today’s answering machines may be either analog or digital. Analog answering machines use conventional audiotape recording, whereas digital answering machines use memory chips. The modern tape format is the continuous-loop microcassette, identical in size to the double-sided microcassettes used in dictating machines. Most machines take one cassette, which holds both the user’s message and incoming messages, but some machines take two cassettes so that the user has two prerecorded messages available. When analog answering machines first became available in the late 1940s, they were marketed as business machines. The use of the name “electronic secretary” conveyed their main selling point—as a secretarial substitute. In the 1980s, as answering machines became cheaper and more compact, they became standard items for the home as well as the office.