List of Physical Visualizations
and Related Artifacts

1992 – Durrell Bishop's Marble Answering Machine


In 1992, Durrell Bishop, then a student at the Royal College of Art, came up with an original answering machine design that is considered as one of the first tangible user interfaces (TUIs). The machine spits out a marble each time an incoming voice message is recorded. The order of the marbles indicates the order in which the messages arrived. Messages can be played back by putting a marble in a small dent. If the message is for somebody else it can be placed on a small dish to the side that can be labeled with names of different persons. The telephone itself also has a small receptor area for the marbles and by placing a message there, the original caller gets called back. See the video.


  1. Yvonne Jansen (2014) Physical and Tangible Information Visualization, p.12.
  2. R. Polynor (1995) The Hand that Rocks the Cradle.
  3. Left image from DocStock, right image by Matt Jones.

Added by: Pierre Dragicevic. Category: Active physical visualization  Tags: answering machine, design, marble, tangible user interface