April 7, 2004 by

Joseph Zimmermann Jr.

6 comments

Categories: Business, Military, Scientists

Joseph James Zimmermann Jr. was running his own air-conditioning and heating company in 1948. He couldn’t afford to hire a secretary to take calls when he was out of the office, so he invented the answering machine.
Patented in 1949, the Electronic Secretary Model R1 weighed 80 pounds. It featured a box containing a control panel with a 78 rpm record player inside. When the phone rang, the machine would lift the telephone receiver from its cradle and play a recorded greeting. A wire recorder on top of a second box would then tape messages for 30 seconds.
Zimmermann teamed up with George W. Danner to launch Electronic Secretary Industries. By 1957, they had sold more than 6,000 answering machines. General Telephone Corp., which later became GTE, purchased the company and its patent rights that year.
A Milwaukee native, Zimmerman earned an electrical engineering degree from Marquette University. He served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, and was one of the first soldiers to land on Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day.
When he returned to the states, Zimmerman spent many hours in his basement developing useful inventions. He created a “dial-a-lecture” system that allowed college students to hear prerecorded lessons by phone, a security device that automatically dialed a phone number in case of an emergency and a magnetic recorder used to monitor heart patients.
Zimmermann died on March 31. Cause of death was not released. He was 92.

6 Responses to Joseph Zimmermann Jr.

  1. Clementi

    Joe:
    I am very sorry your father passed away. I hope you will call me. The number is the same and we are in the book.
    My Dad is going as well. I want our friendship again.
    Please call.
    Willie

  2. Danielle La Vora Mears

    If you can hear me Joey. I was thinking about Uncle Joe today for whatever reason and decided to google him. I didn’t know some the the facts listed above! I miss Auntie Helen and I saw your dad 3 years ago at Grandpa’s funeral (Joe Balistreri.) Email me back so we can keep in touch. Mom (Joanne) is in Houston. Dad (Augie) died about 4.5 years ago.
    Your cousin,
    Dani

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