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Audimeter - Patented electronic device, (a.k.a. "the little black box") used by the A.C. Nielsen Company (now called Nielsen Media Research) to monitor what television programs a viewing household is watching at any given moment.

Originally designed to attached to radios, the Audimeter was placed into households nationwide to record the listening/viewing patterns. No household is a member for more than five years with 20% of the participants removed from the program each year.

"The Audimeter is designed to record with a stylus on moving tape every twist of the radio switch and dials. It registers programs received, whether a program was tuned de liberately or found by dial twisting, whether it was heard through the full period, tuned out at any point, or kept on only after unsuccessful search for something better. Eliminating memory and other human fallibilities from listener-interest testing, Audimeters should tell advertisers just what audience he has and precisely what in his program, if anything, drives an audience away. Independent of telephones, the survey should sample the 13,000,000 radio owners who are without phone service.

-- Time, May 16, 1938

The Audimeter was originally invented by Louis Woodruff in 1930 to record what radio station any particular household was tuned into. The first television monitoring was done in September, 1950.

As of September 1, 1987, the traditional Audimeter was replaced by a more complex unit called a "People Meter" which determined additional viewing factors such as sex and age.

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