In the mid-1950s, the self-recordable sound postcard underwent a revival, with public recording devices being installed in tourist locations and in large department stores and photographic studios across Europe. The semi-automatic Cartavox machine, developed and manufactured in West Germany by Dr. Rudolf Wobser in 1956, was an attempt to capitalise on the increased popularity of audio-messaging via discs and coin-operated disc-recording booths. The machine is an adaptation of a conventional disc-recorder but its ingeniously simple automatic push-button controlled system and light-guided microphone console, similar to that encountered in a recording booth, enables an unskilled operator to use the device. However, in spite of relatively strong sales of the recorder in Britain, the Cartavox enterprise met with misfortune and production of machines and recordable postcards ceased in 1958. The recently restored model used for this project is the only fully working machine of its kind in existence.
The Musée de la Carte Postale in Antibes has a large collection of historical sound postcards and many rare examples. A blog on the museum’s website gives a history of the medium from the French perspective.
To listen to bygone messages recorded on disc, visit phono-post.org – an archive “investigating the media archaeology of voicemail”.