Gordon Matthews (inventor)

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Gordon Matthews (July 26, 1936 – February 23, 2002) was an American inventor and businessman and started one of the first companies which pioneered the commercialization of voicemail.


Matth ews was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After graduating from the University of Tulsa in 1959, Matthews joined the U.S. Marine Corps as an aviator.

Matthews' involvement in trying to mesh human voices to technology was many years in the making. A fellow friend and pilot perished in a mid-air collision, which Matthews believed was caused when he momentarily took his eyes off of his plane's controls to adjust his radio frequency. After he was discharged from the military, Matthews went to work for IBM to help develop voice-activated cockpit controls which would help lessen similar types of catastrophic errors in the future. After IBM, Matthews went to work for Texas Instruments in 1966.

Founding of VMX[edit]

In 1979, Gordon Matthews founded a company in Texas called ECS Communications. The first VMX system was engineered by John Cayton under the direction of Gordon Matthews. In 1979, Matthews also filed a method patent for voicemail, which was granted on 1 February 1983. Matthews patented what was called "Voice Message Exchange," U.S. Patent No. 4,371,752, and was a significant patent for voicemail. While there was prior art for voicemail, Matthews' patent was never adjudicated and held up until its expiration. Matthews eventually held over thirty-five patents, many of which related to voicemail.

Matthews later changed the name of his company to VMX Inc. and eventually developed a 3,000-user voice messaging system called the VMX/64. VMX was arguably the first company to offer voicemail for sale commercially for corporate use. Matthews was able to sell his system to several notable large corporations, such as 3M, Kodak, American Express, Intel, Hoffman La Roche, Corning Glass, ARCO, Shell Canada, Zenith Data Systems and Westinghouse. This impressive list of early adopters started the ball rolling on corporate voicemail.

While some claim that VMX and Gordon Matthews invented voicemail or that he was the "father of voicemail", this claim is not true. The first inventor of record was Stephen Boies of IBM in 1973, six years before Matthews filed his first patent. IBM released its first implementation of Speech Filing System (SFS) in 1975, four years before VMX was launched. SMS was later called Audio Distribution System (ADS).[1] Also, Delphi Communications of California first released their Delta 1 system in 1976, three years before the first patent filing by Matthews.

Legacy of VMX[edit]

In 1988, when VMX was on the verge of bankruptcy, it was acquired by Opcom, a designer and seller of computer software products for handling telephone calls.[2] Opcom was acquired in 1994 by Octel Communications, the largest provider of voice mail equipment and services in the world. In 1997, Octel was acquired by Lucent Technologies and spun off several years later as part of Avaya.


At the time of his death in Dallas, Texas, from complications relating to a stroke on February 23, 2002, Matthews was 65, and was survived by his wife, Monika, son Gordon, and only daughter, Christina.


  1. ^ Gould, John D.; Boles, Stephen J. (October 1983). "Human Factors Challenges In Creating a Principal Support Office System - The Speech Filing System Approach". ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems. ACM. 1 (4): 273–298. 
  2. ^ "VMX to Issue Shares to Acquire Opcom". Los Angeles Times. May 5, 1988. 

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