IBJNews

Audio recording history on display in dealer's HQ

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

A photograph of American innovator Thomas Edison and Hoosier businessman O.K. Van Ausdall hangs just inside the doors of a private room at office equipment dealer Van Ausdall & Farrar headquarters on Indianapolis’ northeast side.

The men are looking at an early version of one of Edison’s many inventions: the Ediphone, an automated dictating machine that would revolutionize corporate communications. They were gathered for the 50th anniversary of the device, appropriately titled the Ediphone Jubilee of 1927.

Edison Eric von Grimmenstein, CEO of Van Ausdall & Farrar, gives a tour of the Voice Museum. “This is the root of our business,” he said. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Founded in 1914, the firm got its start when Edison selected Van Ausdall as an Ediphone distributor. Since then, the company has been proud of its association with the American icon, and now Van Ausdall & Farrar has its own in-house Voice Museum to pay homage to its history.

“This is the root of our business,” said President Eric von Grimmenstein. “The partnership Edison and Mr. Van Ausdall formed is part of the reason we are the largest independently owned office technology company in Indiana today.”

Von Grimmenstein, 55, has been fascinated with the history of audio recording for more than 20 years. He started out collecting antique radios and jukeboxes, but in the last six years has focused on finding and restoring recorded-voice artifacts—now housed at the company’s private museum.

He established the museum three years ago to provide a link between the history of audio recording technology and the company, which he owns.

Dozens of variations of Edison’s invention are arranged in chronological order along the walls, showing how the Ediphone evolved over time—from early, stand-alone machines housed in wooden cabinets with megaphone-like mouthpieces to the smaller, more streamlined examples. More modern, desktop versions of the device are on display behind glass in the center of the room, along with some of the smaller-scale artifacts such as wax cylinders.

Von Grimmenstein sees value in incorporating the museum into the business, which employs about 200 and pulled in $30 million in revenue in 2009.

“We’re a local company with a lot of history, and to a lot of people, that makes a difference,” he said.

The museum, housed in a well-lit room next to the lobby, primarily is used to educate clients and the occasional special guest about the history of audio technology—still a key component of the office automation industry.

Such private collections are not unusual at businesses of all kinds, said Elee Wood, assistant professor of museum studies at IUPUI.

“Certainly, a lot of corporations want to explore their own histories,” she said. “Chronicling the progress of their company is tied to their identity.”
Timeline of the development of audio recording technology
The idea for the audio museum came after von Grimmenstein visited an Edison museum in Florida that celebrated the phonograph. Although the early record player was one of his most significant inventions—Edison was posthumously awarded a Grammy in 1977 for his achievement in recorded sound—he was much more interested in its business applications.

“Edison envisioned it as a business tool because he believed the biggest need for it was in the office,” said Don Gfell, a trustee of the Edison Home in Milan, Ohio.

Edison thought the device would revolutionize the workplace, and it was marketed as such. Above one of the dictating machines at the museum is a large advertisement from France claiming that notetaking by hand was ancient history, and business phonographs were the wave of the future. However, the machines were slow to catch on. It wasn’t until 1975, when the handheld audio recorder was introduced, that voice recording became common.

“People forget that from the early 1900s to about the 1960s, these machines were the only means of audio recording,” Gfell said.

Recently, Gfell and members of the Michigan Antique Phonograph Collectors buried an Ediphone cylinder as part of a time capsule along with more contemporary devices. Their hypothesis was that whoever finds the capsule in the future will be able to play only the more primitive cylinder because the other forms of technology will be incompatible.

Fact boz on Van Ausdall and FarrarGfell, who has amassed Edison artifacts for more than 40 years, said the Internet has made collecting easier. Putting together museum-quality pieces in as little time as it took von Grimmenstein would have been nearly impossible just two decades ago. Instead, a collector would have to depend on word of mouth and put in some road miles. Gfell traveled across the country searching antique shops, flea markets and auctions to find one-of-a-kind artifacts.

“The hunt, as some of us collectors say, was a major thrill. You really had to be knowledgeable about the history surrounding the antique you were looking for,” Gfell said.

Technology also has improved on Edison’s idea of recorded voice. While cell phones and the Internet have had an impact on corporate communications, von Grimmenstein said many of his clients couldn’t do their jobs effectively without audio recorders.

“We do a lot of business for those in the health care industry. For example, surgeons use audio recording devices to take notes during surgery by stepping on a button on the floor,” he said. “The surgeon can then take the audio file and have it converted into text, making the process of writing medical reports far more efficient.”

Voice recording technology accounts for a third of Van Ausdall & Farrar’s business, von Grimmenstein said—further proof of the endurance of Edison’s ideas.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Uh, sorry Johnnie, but you are incorrect. Despite the assertions by yourself and various defenders and captains, sports attendance is NOT off significantly at most sporting events in the US. Variances in attendance has been in the range of single digits, both + & - for years now. MLB has had most of its best overall attendance nubers in the last decade, and that trend has been consistent for most major sporting events. The number one issue cited by most fans when asked about attendance is the overall cost of attending. The presence of HD and big screen televisions in home doesn't even register, as a factor for not attending an event. VALUE in the product is the key, and apparently is something lacking in the current ICS. What other explanation is there when with what is routinely touted as the "best" racing on the planet, fans are staying away in DROVES. A "close" title battle into the last event at Fontana, with the "cars and stars" of the ICS, and who showed up? MAYBE 8K. Sorry, but HD TV isn't to blame for that kind of fan apathy.

  2. Do you need finance to establish your business ? Are you interested in getting a loan at 3% from our private company? If so please Email: suntrust_oil@blumail.org

  3. If she was worth the $ the public outcry over direct tv dropping them would have kept them on their dishes as we have seen with other companies. I too quit watching channel 13 after she showed up since I left channel 8 because of her all show rather than production results. When Randy on 8 corrected her she had a big head and incorrectly challenged his correction for pronunciation of a city. Other antics while she matures was too much for me with her very inaccurate forecasts. All the forecasters were predicting rain until Thursday except Chris. They predicted sunny on Thursday but instead of rain until Thursday upon which the sun would finally make it out in full glory Chris was right on the money just as I too predicted looking at the radar on weather.gov. One thing I love about Angela is the fear you can see in her every time it thunders in the winter. It far exceeds the entertainment value of her body language (high heel noise drags, depression, etc) when her forecasts are so incorrect. Her hair stands on end, you have to see it!!!

  4. Good Day, Apply For A Loan I am Mr Fernadez Antonio, a private Loan lender and a cooperate financial for real estate and any kinds of business financing. I also offer Loans to individuals, Firms and cooperate bodies at 3% interest rate We offer any kind of loans. email us via fernadezloaninvest@outlook.com LOAN APPLICATION FORM First name:......................... Middle name:......................... Last name:........................................ Date of birth (yyyy-mm-dd):....................... Gender:........................................... Marital status:................................... Total Amount Needed............................... Loan Duration.................................... Address:.......................................... City:............................................. State/province:................................... Zip/postal code:.................................. Country:.......................................... Phone:............................................ Fax:.............................................. Mobile/cellular:.................................. Monthly Income.................................... Occupation:....................................... Best Regard, Mr Fernadez Antonio.

  5. i will love to share my testimony to you all the people in world i got married to my husband about 2 year ago we start having problems at home like we stop sleeping on the same bed,fighting about little things he always comes home late at night,drinking too much and sleeping with other women out side i have never love any man in my life except him. he is the father of my child and i don't want to loose him because we have worked so hard together to become what we are and have today .few month ago he now decided to live me and the kid,being a single mother can be hard sometimes and so i have nobody to turn to and i was heart broken.i called my mom and explain every thing to her,my mother told me about DR.okoro how he helped her solve the problem between her and my dad i was surprise about it because they have been without each other for three and a half years and it was like a miracle how they came back to each other. i was directed to DR. okoro on his email:okorospell@gmail.com and explain everything to him,so he promise me not to worry that he will cast a spell and make things come back to how we where so much in love again and that it was another female spirit that was controlling my husband he told me that my problem will be solved within two days if i believe i said OK So he cast a spell for me and after two days my love came back asking me to forgive him i Am so happy now. so that why i decided to share my experience with every body that have such problem contact Dr okoro the great spell caster on his email addresses spellcasterforlove@outlook.com

ADVERTISEMENT