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Roman R. Gonsett

If you had to guess which year the first telephone answering device was invented, would you think of 1912? After all, the telephone had just been invented a few years earlier!

Despite how unbelievable it sounds, the first telephone answering machine was in fact invented in 1912 in Edmonton, by Roman R. Gonsett, an electronics inventor who was, as they say, ahead of his time.

Gonsett immigrated to Eastern Canada from the Ukraine in 1907 before settling in Alberta. He married Irene Stefanyna of Chipman, Alberta and shortly thereafter, they moved to Edmonton where he set up a laboratory. It was from there that Gonsett first began working to create his electronic devices.

In the early part of his career, Gonsett realized Canadian isolation was not working in his favour. He knew that if his inventions were going to enjoy any market success, it was going to have to be elsewhere. In 1916, consequently, the family moved to California.

In California, Gonsett’s career flourished. Sometimes referred to as the "Ukrainian Edison," he secured patents on almost 100 of his inventions ranging from a two-way radio to electric scissors to an aircraft computer capable of measuring the weight and balance of an aircraft in flight.

Though he never received any Canadian patents, Gonsett’s inventions were important enough that he received a commendation from the United States Navy for assistance designing equipment during the Second World War.

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