Rolodex - History of Rolodex


In a time before smart phones, computers, and tablets the business world was filled with address books, business cards holders, and Rolodexes. Without the modern technology available to remember hundreds of phone numbers and addresses through a simple touch screen, the people of the day needed an organized way to search through their contacts.

Therefore, in 1956 the Danish engineer Hildaur Neilsen invented the Rolodex. At the time Hildaur was employed by Zephyr American, a large stationery manufacturer in New York. The Rolodex was meant to be an improvement of an even older version known as the Wheeldex.

Both inventions worked in a similar fashion. These devices held hundreds of specially shaped index cards on which contact information was written. These cards were organized around a center wheel that allowed for the user to quickly sort through the cards and find the correct contact. Typically, these cards were organized by the last name of the contact.

This invention was a huge success during the mid 20th century! Although some organizations would copy information from business cards onto the Rolodex cards, other companies began producing business cards in the shape of the Rolodex cards. This allowed for a much easier filing and organizational process for those wishing to save their information.

However, after the invention of the Rolodex, Zephyr American didn't stop attempting to advance the technology. They also invented Autodex, which was a phone number directory operated by a spring system that would pop open to an intended specific letter. Swivodex, which was a non-spilling inkwell, was another invention by the company.

Today, although it is not often expressed, the term Rolodex can be used to describe any type of personal organizer, or business card collection. Although the word Rolodex survived, the invention did not. As modern technology took away the need to have physical representations of our contact information, the Rolodex faded away into history.

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