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A Rolodex file used in the 1970s

A Rolodex is a rotating card file device used to store business contact information. Its name, a portmanteau of the words rolling and index, has become somewhat genericized (usually as rolodex) for any personal organizer performing this function, or as a metonym for the total of an individual's accumulated business contacts. In this usage, it has generally come to describe an effect or characteristic of the small-world network[1] of a business's investors,[2] board of directors,[3] or the value of a CEO's contacts,[4] or in organizational structure.[5] The Rolodex is iconic enough as a piece of ubiquitous business furniture that it has been shown in the Smithsonian.[6]


The Rolodex was invented in 1956 by Danish engineer Hildaur Neilsen, the chief engineer of Arnold Neustadter's company Zephyr American, a stationery manufacturer in New York.[7] Neustadter was often credited with having invented it.[8][9] First marketed in 1958,[10] it was an improvement to an earlier design called the Wheeldex. Zephyr American also invented, manufactured and sold the Autodex, a spring-operated phone directory that automatically opened to the selected letter; Swivodex, an inkwell that did not spill; Punchodex, a paper hole puncher; and Clipodex, an office aid that attached to a stenographer's knee.[11][12] Neustadter retired and sold out to a larger firm in 1970.[13]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brügemann, Björn; Gautier, P.; Menzio, G. (2017). "Rolodex Game in Networks" (PDF). S2CID 212425470. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  2. ^ Hui, Pamsy P. (2004-08-01). "The rolodex paradox: effects of ties to and via venture capitalists on startup survival and commercial success". Academy of Management Proceedings. 2004 (1): E1–E6. doi:10.5465/ambpp.2004.13857681. ISSN 0065-0668.
  3. ^ Nguyen, Bang Dang (2012-02-01). "Does the Rolodex Matter? Corporate Elite's Small World and the Effectiveness of Boards of Directors". Management Science. 58 (2): 236–252. doi:10.1287/mnsc.1110.1457. ISSN 0025-1909.
  4. ^ Engelberg, Joseph; Gao, Pengjie; Parsons, Christopher A. (2013). "The Price of a CEO's Rolodex". Review of Financial Studies. 26: 79–114. CiteSeerX doi:10.1093/rfs/hhs114. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  5. ^ Perlman, Merrill (2020-04-16). "'Rolodex,' on rotation". Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  6. ^ Nissen, Mark E.; Sawy, Omar A. (2002-09-01). The Rolodex Model: Understanding Relationship Complexity as a Precursor to the Design of Organizational Forms for Chaotic Environments (Technical report). Monterey, CA: Naval Postgraduate School.
  7. ^ US patent 2731966A, Neilsen, Hildaur L., "Rotary card-filing device", issued 1956-01-24, assigned to Zephyr American Corporation .
  8. ^ "Arnold Neustadter, 85, who invented the Rolodex card..." Baltimore Sun. 1996-04-20. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  9. ^ Hampson, Rick (1996-04-19). "Rolodex Inventor Dead at 85; Created the Business World's Wheel of Fortune". AP News. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  10. ^ "Fascinating facts about the invention of Rolodex by Hildaur Neilsen in 1954". 2006-06-09. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 2014-09-04.
  11. ^ Bellis, Mary. "History of the Rolodex - Hildaur Neilson invented the Rolodex". Archived from the original on 2008-11-07. Retrieved 2014-09-04.
  12. ^ Grossman, Anna Jane (2010-03-20). "The Life and Death of the Rolodex". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  13. ^ Lasker, David (1990-01-28). "ICONS: Rolodex: A Rotary File Comes Full Circle". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2022-08-21.

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