Historical information

This Edison Ediphone voice recording electronic business machine is manufactured to suit a small office and is light enough to carry between work and home for use outside normal business hours. It is a dictation machine, also called by the competitor’s brand name ‘Dictaphone’, and is used for recording spoken words that would later be transcribed and typewritten.

A wax cylinder would be installed onto the machine’s drum and the Reproducer on the machine would be lowered onto the cylinder. The user would speak a message into a microphone and the reproducer would then convert the sounds to scribed marks on the cylinder. Later, the cylinder could be played and the Reproducer would enable the sound to be amplified through an attached speaker. This machine is currently without its power cord, microphone and speaker horn.

Thomas A. Edison extended the technology of the telegraph to his phonograph machine, invented in the late 19th century. It could record and play back sounds of music and voice on a manually operated mechanical machine that used wax cylinders to store the sound. He envisaged the way this technology could be an asset in the office, and he was right! However, most of his phonograph machines were used for entertainment, some for playing lessons, and some for-teaching languages.

In 1916 Edison introduced the Ediphone, which grew in popularity after the First World War and into the late 1920s until flat round records replaced the wax cylinders.


This Edison Ediphone is significant for improving the way business administration was carried out in the early 20th century, freeing up precious time for professionals and administrative personnel. It was the forerunner of audio tapes and digital technology. The Ediphone enabled letters to be dictated when the time and place suited and reduced the time professionals needed to spend with their secretaries. Secretaries were able to type the letters as they played the recording and they could replay the message if necessary.

Physical description

Voice recorder; a dictation machine; desktop model Edison Ediphone. The electronic machine is in a medal case with remnants of the original grey colour. It has a rectangular base with an A4-sized footprint and a domed hood that retracts halfway into the back of the base. The corners of the base have metal reinforcing, and a short metal bar is on the front centre edge of the lid and the base. A long metal drum is mounted inside the machine. A round device called a ‘reproducer’ is mounted above the drum. There is a folding handle on the left front of the machine and an angled stand with paper guides in front of the drum. A rear cover has the maker’s name stamped on it. An electrical socket with eight pins is recessed beside the cover. Made by Edison.

Inscriptions & markings

In white letters; “EDISON”