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"I received a nice letter the other day from the Dalai Lama. He had read 'The Nine Billion Names of God'. It is about a computer at a Tibetan monastery."
- Arthur C. Clarke

Cellphone Voice Mail  
  Callers speak into their instrument, and the content of the call is stored by the network for the user to replay at will.  

Cellphone voice mail is commonplace today, of course. But somebody had to think of it - and Frederik Pohl was an early visionary. In the novel, access to voice mail is provided by the Joymaker, a wirelessly-networked personal digital assistant (PDA), cellphone and web "browser."

"Your messages follow. Notice of personal visit: Taiko Hironibi will join you for breakfast... Adne Bensen sends you a kiss. First Merchants Audit and Trust invites your patronage. Society of Ancients states you have been approved for membership and relocation benefits..."

"You can skip the commercials..."

From The Age of The Pussyfoot, by Frederik Pohl.
Published by Ballantine in 1966
Additional resources -

Note that this voice mail system not only allows you to listen to recorded messages, it also lists the messages first by summarizing them, and then lets you pick from the verbally presented list. This feature was imagined by Pohl forty years before the iPhone.

Voice mail is commonly held to have been invented by IBM; work on the SFS (Speech Filing System) began in 1973. An operational prototype was offered to customers in 1975; voice mail was widely offered commercially in the early 1980's.

You might be surprised to know that voice mail was first imagined by Thomas Edison in 1878, shortly after he invented the phonograph and was trying to figure out what to do with it. See the entry for Networked Telephone Answering Machine (taken from a 1923 novel by H.G. Wells in which he described the modern concept rather neatly.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Age of The Pussyfoot
  More Ideas and Technology by Frederik Pohl
  Tech news articles related to The Age of The Pussyfoot
  Tech news articles related to works by Frederik Pohl

Cellphone Voice Mail-related news articles:
  - Klausner iPhone Voicemail Suit Neglects SF Prior Art

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