The Saucer That Changed the World

by Dave Michels

25 years ago, Polycom created its iconic SoundStation conference saucer and the world a little easier to hear.

Unfortunately, I had a few challenges with the video technology (a bit ironic really, but the conference was not hosted by Polycom). I had to get a little creative in the editing process.

On November 30, 2017, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History acquired objects related to Polycom’s development of teleconferencing technologies which marked an advance in business communications. This was the conference saucer the 1) created the conference saucer segment, 2) made audio-conferences far less painful, and 3) demonstrated harmony between tech and design.
The Smithsonian is now the proud owners of: the original wooden prototype, initial breadboard (an experimental version of the circuit) and early drawings of the Polycom SoundStation. Polycom also donated Transparent and Blue SoundStations, SoundStation Premier and the Polycom Trio released this year.

“Through these and other objects, the museum tells the story of business communications from Alexander Graham Bell’s original telephone to modern conferencing technology,” said Harold Wallace, curator of the museum’s electricity collections.

The Polycom artifacts join the more than 25,000 objects in the Electricity Collections. The collection documents and preserves the history of electrical science and electrical technologies that are the foundation of the modern world.

Related: See my interview with Polycom CEO Mary McDowell.