Have you ever wondered how modern day interpretation equipment came to be? Who thought of the idea of simultaneous interpretation (SI) equipment? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here is a brief history of SI equipment and technology!FM Transmitters

First of all, when was interpretation invented? Though it is a common misconception that simultaneous interpretation was first used in the early twentieth century when equipment was invented, this is not true. Simultaneous interpretation has been used for centuries, usually in the form of chuchotage. This is a form of simultaneous interpretation in which the interpreter listens to the speaker talking in the source language and simultaneously whispers in the target language into a person’s ear. The invention of interpretation equipment in the 1920s created an environment that put less strain on interpreters and allowed them to work for longer periods with fewer mistakes.

Early records of this technology are rare and the specific details are uncertain. Though it is not certain who came up with the idea of interpretation equipment, it is widely believed that the concept came from the American business man Edward Filene, who conceptualized a system of microphones, headsets, and transmitters. He worked with British engineer A. Gordon-Finlay and the company IBM to design the first version of the product, which in 1926 they dubbed the IBM Hushaphone Filene-Findlay [sic] System.

Hush-a-Phone was a separate enterprise at that time that produced attachments for telephones that improved sound quality and privacy of calls, and the similar names of the IBM product and the Hush-a-Phone company have caused confusion in the history of interpretation systems. It is unknown if this was just a coincidence in naming the product or if the Hush-a-Phone company collaborated in the creation of this product, though historians such as Dr. James Parker believe these products to be unrelated.

Again, the exact details are uncertain, but it is believed that interpretation equipment was used for the first time in 1928 at the VI Congress of the Comintern in the Soviet Union. It is also believed that the first large-scale use of the equipment occurred at the Nuremburg Trials of 1945. The Nuremburg Trials are often considered the “birth date” of modern interpretation equipment, though it was already being used prior to this time.

How do you think interpretation equipment has expanded and changed since its invention nearly 100 years ago? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments!