A Brief History of Call Recording

A Brief History of Call Recording

Last Updated on December 6, 2019

Brief History of Call Recording

Call recording is one of the quickest ways you can improve your business. By supplying you with real, hard data, about how your sales and customer service teams are dealing with customers, you can gain insights that will help grow your bottom line. Of course, we have it easy now. We can record calls and listen to them whenever we want and figure out how improvements can be made.

Call recording, as we use it, is a relatively new technology. However, call recording of some type, has been around since the early 1900’s …1903 to be specific. In today’s article, we’re going to take a look at how call recording technology has evolved.

The “Telephone Answering Machine”

In 1903, a patent was filed for a device, called the “Telephone Answering Machine”. Although there was voice recording technology before this, this is the first patent on record that addressed the recording of communications.

Before 1903, telegraphs could transmit morse code and there were likely recorders for that. However, they couldn’t record the human voice. There was also Edison’s phonograph recorder (1877), but this was not really designed for recording calls. Later, the Graphophone was invented around 1887 by Volta Laboratory, and this was a the first step into recordings used in a commercial setting. However, it was primarily used in the US Congress and did not involve actual phone lines to record.  

To move towards the concept of recording telephone, we need to move a little further a long in time to 1903, in which the patent by Theodore and Carl Freese, states: “Our invention relates to telephony, our more particular object being to provide automatic mechanism for answering calls in the absence of the operative in charge of the station and for automatically recording messages received from the line.” The device works by recording sound waves on a wax disk. This particular invention never caught on, likely due to limited recording ability, and difficulty of use. That being said, without it, we may not have the call recording technology of today.

Magnetic Tape Recorders

Fast forward a few decades, and we’ve arrived at the era of tape recorders (very early versions). These tape recorders were initially used in air traffic control centers and military vessels, to record conversations and directions. Like early computers, they were massive devices, that took a team of experts to manage and keep running. Despite this inconvenience, for the first time, humans had the ability to “travel back in time” – to listen to something that occurred in the past, exactly as it had occurred.

In today’s modern world, virtually everything important is recorded. Especially with smartphones that can record video and audio at the push of a button. Imagine what it must’ve been like to not have any of this available… especially in the military, or air traffic control. If something went wrong, it’d be impossible to determine exactly why it went wrong. With the invention of the tape recorder, we were no longer in the dark. If something went wrong, there was a direct reference. There was the ability to look into the problem and figure out exactly what caused the malfunction…and know exactly how to fix it.

Although tape recorders began as behemoth, clumsy machines, they improved rapidly. They shrank in size and could hold more data. But tape recording was a flawed technology. In order to access certain parts of the tape, you’d need to blindly fast forward or rewind. Additionally, sound quality and storage room was limited with tape recorders. I think we all remember listening to tapes and switching them out and turning them over almost constantly. If you wanted to delete or change something on a tape recorder, you had to do so at a physical level. You needed to connect a new strand of tape, to the current tape roll or record over the existing audio with something else. So, once again, to move forward, technology needed a quantum leap – a leap that would transcend the limitations of tape recorders and usher in a new era of technology.

The Digital Recorder

Up to this point, all call and voice recording technology had one thing in common: it was all based in the physical world. First, on wax cylinders, then on physical tape. With digital recording, that would all change. Because although the digital recorder is still a physical device, it stores data in strings of discrete numbers. The digital recorder understands these numbers and is able to take the numbers and turn them into actual interpretable audio.

So in the instance of call or voice recording, the recorder first turns the voice or call into numbers and then, when required, translates those numbers back into audio that we can listen to. If you need to change any data on the digital recorder, it’s easy. Because it simply involves switching out numbers that don’t actually “exist” in the physical world. Meaning, there’s no physical object to manipulate. With digital playback, you can easily go to any spot of the recording.

It’s also possible to get digital recorders smaller and more efficient than a tape recorder could ever get. Our smartphones hold thousands of times more data than tape recorders did. And digital technology is still improving. As far as we could find, the first digital recorder was introduced by Philips, through their science division. Shortly after the technology was introduced, other companies jumped on board.

Call Recording in the Present

At the time of this writing, we’re still working with digital recordings. And, in our opinion, we will be for quite some time. Although there have been many developments in digital recording technology, making it smaller, faster and more efficient, there is still a lot that can be improved on. Every year, almost exponential leaps are made in the storage capabilities of digital recorders. Most of us can remember just a few years ago, how big a gigabyte used to be. It’s not a quantum leap forward, but cloud storage marks a milestone in technological development, especially for voice and call recording.

Thanks to the cloud, we can now store more data than ever before possible. Because on the cloud, data can be stored by multiple digital devices working together, it’s possible to store absolutely huge amounts of data online. Many recording devices now automatically upload files from the device to the cloud, without the user needing to touch a thing.

Closing Thoughts

Technology is evolving at a rapid rate. Looking over where call recording started, it’s almost shocking to see how far we’ve come. Smart readers will notice a trend in technology. Often times, new technology seems mysterious… almost like it comes to us by pure luck. But when you see the history, you see that a technology is found, developed, improved, and when it reaches its potential, a new technology is discovered.

At Versadial, we eagerly look forward to new developments in technology, both in call recording and all areas of life. By using the latest technology, we can improve our call recording devices even further, which will inevitably usher in new business techniques and practices more effective than ever before.

Last Updated on December 6, 2019