Calculator photos courtesy

AT&T 4A Speakerphone

Polycom SoundStation

Bowmar Calculator

HP-35 Calculator

The Polycom SoundStation hit its market the same way when it was introduced in 1992.  The AT&T 4A “squawk box” was the most common speakerphone still in use, and virtually all audio conferencing was done with one-way speakerphones that combined lousy fidelity with poor pickup and the annoying characteristic of chopping off whichever side didn’t talk the loudest - the same way a lot of speakerphones still work today, come to think of it. 

The SoundStation combined a revolutionary new look with one-cable instant hookup and a conversational transparency that was made possible by an unprecedented automatically-compensated set of full-duplex algorithms, running on a 30 MHz digital signal processor.  All inside that triangle.  Nobody had ever done that before, not even come close, and the result overturned the world’s conception of what a speakerphone could be.

Even today in 2009, there are tens of thousands of these old warhorses still in use.  Polycom’s newer phones, like the SoundStation 2 and the VoIP speakerphones, have much better sound, fuller features and more robust algorithms, but if you compare that original 1992 SoundStation to most speakerphones on the market even today, it will blow them away. 

Maybe I’ll do a future post on how to calculate those square roots, and how to really test a speakerphone.  That’ll be fun.