The term dictaphone is used for a huge range of portable devices used for recording speech. Models using mini cassettes have largely been superseded by digital recorders and by the recording options on smart phones.

Dictaphones have a wide range of uses, including making notes, taking minutes of a meeting, recording lectures or interviews and rehearsing. Prior to the widespread use of computers, a user would record letters or reports for another person to type. This saved time compared to two people being together while one person dictated and the other took shorthand notes.

Philips has always been a leading manufacturer of dictaphones and in 1967 introduced the mini cassette, which is used in analogue recorders such as the one shown here. This particular model was introduced in November 2006 and, though no longer made, is widely available second hand. It runs off two AA batteries and will record for fifteen minutes per side of the cassette. The tape in the cassette is robust and does not tangle as so often happened with larger cassettes. The recording quality is good for speech, but the slow speed of the tape makes it unsuitable for music.

Though the recorder is designed to fit comfortably into the hand, the shape and the position of the controls suggest that it was designed with right-handed users in mind. It is designed for one-handed use with a four-position switch for stop, fast forward, rewind and play. There is a switch on the edge to start recording, but there is also a hands-free option using voice activation. Other advertised features are  the ability to gauge the position of tape during fast-forward and rewind with audible scan, to delete recordings with fast erase, to avoid unintentional operation with transport lock, to save valuable dictation with record protection and to stay abreast of recording status with a visual indicator and low battery light.

For most purposes the internal microphone is adequate, but there is a socket for an external microphone, should one be required. There is also a socket for listening to recordings through headphones.


Key theme(s):

WorkHome & Garden

More information:

Date 2000s
Material(s) PlasticMetal
Item number MBPO292

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • When, where and why have you made recordings on a dictaphone?
  • When, where and why have you listened to recordings made by someone else on a dictaphone?
  • If you have taken dictation from someone, do you prefer a recording or shorthand?
  • Do you have a smartphone? If so have you used it to record speech?
  • If you are left handed, what difficulties have you experienced with gadgets or tasks?

User Stories

At work I have dictated material to a secretary, to be taken down in shorthand and later by using a dictaphone. Increasingly, with the introduction of computers, I typed my own letters and reports.

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