By Corey Moss

A short time back, an invite came from Polycom to attend a very special event that would be taking place at the Smithsonian Institute, CEO Mary McDowell would be in attendance along with others at Polycom including Jeff Rodman, Co-Founder/Chief Evangelist. For those who may not yet know, Jeff is also the inventor of that legendary telecommunications device the AV industry knows so well – the Polycom SoundStation.

On the morning of November 30th, I entered the National Museum of American History, looking forward to witnessing what I believed would be a truly exceptional event. The invite gave a few details of what was to take place, however upon walking into the room filled with people from Polycom and certain others, I felt the history in the making taking place in the museum’s Reception Suite.

As a former commercial AV integration sales person, who sold the well-known telecommunications device being donated on this day to the Smithsonian, I felt a bit of a historic rush, along with the consideration that last year I had interviewed Jeff Rodman about a 95 cent book from Radio Shack and the invention of the SoundStation (to go with a recent blog I had written):

Polycom Co-Founder Jeff Rodman and the Modern Conference Phone – How I Know Them as an Industry Media Person and a Former Commercial AV Integrator

And where I stated at the end there will be more to come – here it is.

After talking with a few people, I walked over to a set of tables with telecommunications artifacts (as they are referred to by the Smithsonian) laid out on them.

Polycom devices 1

Polycom devices 2

However here is what this day was all about, the device that truly was an out of the box product which executives and other end users found to be a perfect tabletop communications solution (which you still see in offices today). Jeff asked me during the interview why I believed it was such a successful product in terms of all of those that I sold, where I referenced this and more. The bottom line, ease of use – set it on the table, plug it in and go.

Polycom SoundStation Natl Museum.png

Hal present Smithsonian

The event began as Hal (Harold) Wallace, Associate Curator, Electricity Collections for the Smithsonian Institute stood at the podium to introduce the ceremony, along with the people who were involved. I had a terrific talk with Hal after the event and he detailed his position with the museum and exactly what he is responsible for, including adding to the museum’s electricity collection. In short, as I found out he’s the museum’s consummate tech geek.

Next, Mary McDowell and Jeff Rodman went to the podium to sign documentation for the donation, which was also signed by Hal Wallace.

After the signing, Jeff and Mary joined Hal in a discussion about the donations and what the SoundStation has meant, along with fielding questions from people in the audience.

Jeff talk Smithsonian

Mary talk Smithsonian

Polycom’s donations – including the original wooden prototype, initial breadboard (an experimental version of the circuit), early drawings of the Polycom SoundStation from 1990–2, Transparent and Blue SoundStations – will join the more than 25,000 objects in the Electricity Collections. Along with these, Polycom also donated the Trio, which was released earlier this year.

Polycom donations Smithsonian

As specified by the Smithsonian, the museum’s collection documents and preserves the history of electrical science and electrical technologies that are the foundation of the modern world.

A truly historic day for the people at Polycom, and I was honored to have been invited to be a part of it.

Polycom people at Smithsonian

Find out more, incuding a statement from Jeff Rodman here: Smithsonian Newsdesk – Polycom Donates SoundStation Devices to National Museum of American History.


With over 20 years in audio visual integration and IT/computer sales and consulting, Corey Moss is the owner of Convergent AV. Corey writes for the publication and hosts/produces podcasts – The AV Life, The Collaboration Factor and Convergent Tech Talk. He has written for numerous industry publications about AV, IT, unified communications and collaboration (UCC), cloud and software, IoT, cybersecurity and more. He has also conducted interviews with AV and IT executives and global influencers.