The History of the Rolodex

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Rolodex Letters Old

Back before cell phones and digital contact lists, before Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections and Gmail address books, was a little invention called the Rolodex. The Rolodex (short for rolling index) was where you kept all the contact information you had for friends, family, coworkers and new contacts. For those of you reading this under the age of 35, picture a wheel of index cards sorted alphabetically into tabbed sections. Keeping track of everyone you met in business took a lot more time than clicking the “connect ” button on LinkedIn.

Before the Rolodex the best way to organize your contact – ? information was to copy it all into an address book, or just keep all your business cards in a shoebox or desk drawer. But in 1956, Arnold Neustadter, an inventor from Brooklyn, decided it was time to change all of that.

Rolodex QuoteThe Rolodex was born out of a group effort from Neustadter, Hildaur Neilson and their company Zephyr America. In 1956, Neustadter and Neilson invented and designed the Rolodex, including a circular file card holder and plastic handles to turn it. It was first marketed in 1958 and from there, it became a revolutionary organizational method for business people who had names and address scattered everywhere in their home and office. By the 1980s, the Rolodex became a staple in offices and had reached such a level of importance that people would often steal Rolodexes from their companies when they left (complete with the contact info of a lot of important people); one was even held for ransom.

I bring up the Rolodex not to dwell on nostalgic technologies from the not-so-distant past, but to emphasize the importance of keeping a strong network- no matter what techno format you decide to use (or avoid). Cultivating your network has always been important and maybe now more than ever since the effort needed to obtain someone’s contact information is much easier than it used to be.

RolodexFor what I do at Durakis Executive Search it all comes down to my network, no matter if you keep track of your connections with Linkedin Pro or keep your business cards in a beat up old shoebox.

And yes, I still love my Rolodex.