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A call to any business or home used to mean one of three things -- an answer, a busy signal or endless, unanswered ringing. Increasingly, it now means an encounter with voice mail.
First introduced to the world in the 1970s, voice messages have become a routine part of everyone's day, if not the most common electronic message system used. At work, on your cell phone and at home, almost everyone has at least one voice mail account, and sometimes more than one.
Voice mail providers vary widely, using different approaches and equipment to achieve essentially the same goal: a convenient messaging service for phone users. Such companies provide office voice mail, cell phone voice mail and home voice mail services.
Voice mail once ruled the world in terms of electronic messaging. It's now one of several popular methods of leaving and retrieving important -- and sometimes not so important -- messages for friends, family and business associates. One trend in electronic messaging these days deals with tying all these systems -- voice mail, e-mail, instant messaging -- into integrated systems aimed at keeping users constantly in touch.
However, voice mail started it all, making it possible for people to instantly pass detailed information from one party to another without directly speaking to them. And the old standby has evolved and improved, remaining relevant and popular even during these times of overnight communication revolutions.
In this article, we'll talk about what voice mail is, along with the types of voice mail. We'll also discuss using voice mail, including setting up and using voice mail accounts as well as the future of voice mail.
What is Voice Mail?
Voice mail was introduced in the late 1970s. Gordon Mathews founded a company called VMX in 1979. VMX stood for "voice mail express," and Mathews received a U.S. patent for his digital invention in 1982. VMX was the first voice mail provider service, its first client being 3M. The system recorded and managed messages using the digital technology available during the late 1970s and 1980s. Some companies still use their VMX systems.
Voice mails are essentially digital recordings of outgoing and incoming voice messages that are managed either by an on-site or off-site system. Some users purchase systems that are operated and managed either by its own employees or on a contract basis with another company. Home-based users, such as home telephone and cell phone users, often use an off-site service, such as their phone service provider, for voice mail accounts. Others, however, purchase software that allows their PC to become an electronic message system.
Voice mail systems make phone systems more powerful and flexible by allowing conversations and information to pass between parties, even when both aren't present. In a work setting, customers and business people rely upon voice mail, both for leaving and sending messages. Outgoing messages, for instance, are the messages people use to greet those who call their line. The outgoing message can tell a caller whose line they've reached, when that person might return and to leave a message. The caller, armed with this information, can leave a detailed message that's most appropriate for his or her needs.
Voice mail typically is integrated with the on-site phone system, allowing both inside and outside users to utilize many features. Such features include off-site access to messages, paging and urgent message delivery, among many others.
As in the phone systems of old, many voice mail systems today come with an "operator." The difference is these operators aren't human, they're auto-attendants. Auto attendants guide users, both those from the inside and the outside, through the many options a voice-mail system has to offer. It instructs users how to enter commands through the phone's keypads, such as how to retrieve a message.
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