Saturday, March 2, 2002

Gordon Matthews

The inventor of modern voice mail died yesterday. His name was Gordon Matthews. He was 65.

One day, while standing in the rain near a dumpster, he noticed a huge pile of those pink "While You Were Out" slips. He thought "What if we didn't need those slips of paper anymore?"

He built prototypes, and eventually filed the patent (4,371,752) that was the birth of the modern voice mail era. His first systems were bought by 3M. Other companies soon followed. The company he founded to build and sell voice mail systems would eventually earn millions of dollars in royalties on this technology.

I am not a heavy voice mail user now. As it is, I only receive one or two messages a week. At my last job, however, I was a voice mail geek. I changed my greeting every day: "Today is Friday, March 1. You have reached Rick Umali." The five to ten people who left voice mail for me would know I was in. One of my colleagues configured his voice mail box to send a message to his pager, so he knew whenever a voice mail message arrived for him. Despite my dearth of incoming messages, I couldn't imagine working in an office without voice mail.

Gordon Matthews changed the way businesses work. RIP.

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