Dictaphone - So that's a dictaphone.

I'd heard movies and stuff mentioning "Dictaphones" in the past, but I had never seen one. I figured it was just an office machine like a tape recorder. Nope. Turns out they were far more ridiculous. How ridiculous? Observe today's ad from 1936 and drink in the crazy.
To the tech-starved troglodytes of 1936, you'd think the ad would make a point to explain what the hell a Dictaphone does, and how it does it. However, this ad ran in Fortune magazine, which was read by the guys (Usually guys, back then. Sorry.) who owned and ran companies. They didn't care about the nuts and bolts. They only wanted the bottom line. Still, after reading (well, thoroughly skimming) the entire ad for any kind of explanation, I was left to decipher the use and function of a Dictaphone from the pictures. This seems very odd, considering the fact that the Dictaphone corp. wants very badly for you to read their pamphlet "What is an office Anyway?". They might have considered making a pamphlet "What the Dic is a Dictaphone, Anyway?" But nope. They assume you either already know or don't care about details.

Brace yourself. It's a wax cylinder recorder. Yep. That's it. 1) Boss intones his wisdom into a honking great hose. 2) Boss uses standard office forklift or dirigible to lift Dictaphone to secretary's desk. 3) Secretary types what boss said, making adjustments and corrections on the fly, because you can't erase a wax cylinder. Ho-leee crap. We are truly living in a science-fiction world of magic, by comparison.

In 1947, Dictaphone switched from wax cylinder technology to a type of plastic band recording medium, called a "Dictabelt". I am not making this up. In later years, the Dictabelt was supplanted by a magnetic sheet type of setup. No word on what they called this technology, but I'm hoping for "Dictaphragm".

The Dictaphone made obsolete not only by tape recorders in the seventies. The unhygienic nature of the Dictaphone's "talking horn" led to widespread inflammation of the oral region - a condition called "dictalips". Faced with the threat of mounting lawsuits, Dictaphone then produced a disposable, detachable version of the talking horn, which allowed each employee to have their own mouthpiece and replace it when it became dirty. This was marketed under the patented name of "Dictahose". Ads encouraged office workers to "Stop putting someone else's horn hear your mouth! Our new Dictahose will make your mouth feel great."

By the time that the Dictaphone fell out of use, The Seventies were upon us, and you were far more likely to be stared at if your mouth did NOT have an inflammation of some kind.

 The clip art in this ad is pretty cool. Here they are, fresh from the "levels" filter, piping hot, in delightful JPEG format for your interoffice memos, or "Dictanotes".
"My mother? Let me tell you about my mother..."

It looks like this guy is being given a Voight-Kampff test. He might be a skinjob.

Click for big.


Michael Leddy said...

I find my Dictaphone invaluable. The only problem is the waxy buildup. Will Mop & Glo help with that?

As you might already know, Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity has some great Dictaphone scenes.

Aaron Mahler said...

"Hey, can I use your Dictaphone?"

"No! Use your finger like everybody else!"

Ypek said...

What's that on the secretary's head, an Earophone?

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

Well joked, Aaron! I wish I'd thought of that one. Thanks for commenting all of you!


PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

The secretary is wearing a "smile enhancer". It screws to the mastoid process and prohibits frowning, grimacing, scowling, glowering, gnashing, and sleeping. Now largely used by the Church of Scientology.

Steve Miller said...

In 1959, Gates Radio made a device called the ST-101 intended for playing commercials. It used a 13-inch wide magnetic belt that ran for 90 seconds and could hold -- surprise! -- 101 tracks, mechanically selectable by moving a lever. This pretty quickly wound up on history's midden heap, partly because the belt could wind up around the rollers, but largely because the 1/4 endless tape loop cart machines did not need to be rewound between plays. Pix here: http://www.broadcastdocuments.com/BROADCAST_DOCUMENTS/SPOT_TAPE.html and here: http://www.oldradio.com/archives/hardware/101.htm

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