The War Years


With the coming of World War II, the U.S. government became a large customer for dictation equipment. The expansion of the market encouraged the entrance of competitors for the first time since the 1880s. Soundscriber, one of these new firms, and the Gray Manufacturing Company, an older maker of telephone equipment, both begin selling dictation machines that use a new type of medium-- the vinyl disk. For a brief time, both Dictaphone and Edison were in the embarrassing position of holding on to a medium that suddenly looked antiquated. Both were still making dictation machines that used the same wax cylinder recording medium that had been introduced in the 1880s (although the old "acoustic" recording process had been replaced with real microphones and electronic amplifiers in the 1930s). Both companies would make cylinder recorders until about 1950, and would continue to service cylinder machines for many more years. Dictaphone, however, was preparing for change. During the war, it began to manufacture a new type of product using a plastic belt instead of a wax cylinder. This product, sold only to the military for the duration of the conflict, allowed Dictaphone to attain a stronger position in the postwar market.