March 18, 2013 @ 7:03 AM

Call Recording Series Part I: A Neophyte History of Call Recording

By Gregory J. Robb, Research Assistant, Applied Business Technologies, LLC

The Information Age stretches our abilities to remember the beginnings of technology. The history of call recording is no different. Those who initially used voice-recording to crack Morse code could never have imagined screen recording. Speech Analytics would have been deemed a space-age concept. Yet, the core purpose of call recording remains one of communication.

Way Back When

Industry researchers believe the first voice-recorder may have been created to monitor telegraphs, but the first telephony-based call recording device was patented on Tuesday , December 1, 1903. Theodore and Carl Freese, of Elria, OH, devised a machine that would answer calls in place of an operator and play a recorded message stored on a wax disk. As with many inventions, the Freeses’ call recording device was not embraced as widely as first hoped. Researchers theorize that the lifespan of the device doomed it.

That all changed when humankind developed the capacity to store electro-magnetic signals on tape. Readers born before 1983 can likely recall the days of cassette tape recording. By that time, household answering machines contained outgoing and incoming messages on separate tapes. Prior to cassette, magnetic tape came in reel-to-reel form which played at two speeds: 7.5-inches-per-second (ips), and 15-inches-per-second. The first generation of reel-to-reel call recording devices are believed to have been used for air traffic control prior to being adopted in the recording industry. Call recording with magnetic tape has also been utilized in emergency response, financial institutions, recording studios and stock exchanges. When in doubt, humanity had a way to go back and check the tape.

Catalysts of Evolution

Call recording was first challenged by hardware issues. Each “channel” of call recording required a reel-to-reel machine with room for two spools. Therefore, the first such designed merely stacked each recorder into one large and ungainly piece of equipment. The moving parts within the machine also had design challenges.

Storage capacity also emerged over time as an issue. For example, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) once required that radio stations record their on-hour signals for storage. At license renewal time, the FCC used those “logger tapes” to verify the station’s compliance with its license restrictions. A slower recording speed produces less tape, but the opposite is also true. Fifteen inches of tape for every recorded second adds up to 450 feet of magnetic tape per hour, or 10,800 feet per 24 hours. Some enterprises were required to store the data for compliance purposes.


These days, call recording is being shaped by the supply of technology and the demand of consumers. As the world went digital, storage capacity exponentially increased. Call centers are increasingly mining call data in order to raise the quality of call center customer service. From Commodore 64 to the newest mobile application, the world has evolved into business on-the-fly. Call centers must rely on the value of customer interaction if it is to remain competitive.

While technology changes, the fundamental objective of call centers remains as it always has: customer service. For more information on Call Recording please visit us at www.appliedcorp.com.

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