Sherman, set the wayback machine to ridiculous because back in 1967, Smith-Corona — best known for its typewriters — actually sold a device called the Mail Call. What did it do? Let users record messages on small cartridges and mail them to anyone with a matching device.
In a way it was like the earliest form of voicemail, except that users would be stuck in a perpetual game of phone tag. And Smith-Corona promoted the system as being a more personal alternative to writing a letter, but without the poor sound quality of calling someone on the phone. It was also claimed to be cheaper than placing a long distance phone call, but with a two-unit starter kit costing $US70 back in 1967 — equivalent to around $US450 today — you’d have to get quite a bit of use out of it to break even.