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The origins of teletypesetting (TTS)

Started by Mechanic, September 21, 2010, 06:09:11 AM

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I have been doing a little research into the origins of teletypesetting (TTS).

One of the earliest teletypewriters was invented during the late 1890s by Donald Murray, a New Zealander. Murray was working at The Sydney Morning Herald, in Sydney, Australia, at the time, and he originally intended his machine as an automatic typesetter. Murray's teletypewriter had a rotating drum. When the operator pressed a key, the drum operated a sophisticated electromechanical process that resulted in a unique code for that character being transmitted over telegraph lines.  Not getting much support for his prototype in Australia he took it to the  United States. The reception there originally was not much better. In the original design the drum was rotated by hand. The addition of an electric motor improved the functionality.

As teletype machines evolved, they gained the capability of transmitting in two different modes. In the direct mode, typing on the keyboard of one machine sent, an improved Murray styled, Baudot-coded signals through wires to trigger printing of the message by a similar machine at the other end. In the indirect mode, the act of typing caused the signals to be translated into rows of holes punched in a narrow strip of paper tape, with each row of possible holes representing one character.

It is reported that 1902 Mergenthaler Linotype Company had experimented using Murray's machine. From what I have been able to ascertain that although Murray believed that automated typesetting via teletype was feasible,  he no longer pursued the idea. The fact Teletype code is Murray's code, and the Teletypesetter code is Teletype code expanded to drive Linotype and Intertype linecasters, proved Murray to be correct.

Like most good inventions the automation of linecating machines was as a result of others building on the groundwork of others. In 1902 Frank Pearne a young electrical engineer aproached Joy Morton who inturn convinced Charles Krum, a mechanical engineer, to invest in the development of printing telegraphy. After a year Preane lost interest, Krum was enthusiastic  and continued to develope the machine.(which led, through his collaboration with Teletype) to included linecaster control.

However it was with the backing of Frank Gannett, the owner of a US newspaper chain, and the inventive genus of Walter Morely that culminated in Linotype and Intertype machines being automated. The Gannett Morely teletypesetter system was demonstrated in 1928

In 1951, the Associated Press started using  their new "teletypesetting" service in Charlotte, NC. The news information was transmitted using a perforated, paper tape. At the receiving end of the circuit, a punch produced the perforated tape. At the same time a hard copy was printed out on a teletype printer for editorial subbing.The tape could then be used by typesetting machines. The first message sent was "Greetings. This is the opening of the first teletypesetter circuit," for they were the first news agency in the U.S. to begin such operation.

The following URL is from Harvard Square Library. It shows Frank Gannett holding the tape used in the first demonstration of a teletype machine operating a Linotype. Exactly how this machine worked I have no idea. It is certainly nothing like the Teletypesetters that were around in the 1950's. Photo at the bottom of the page.

There is an interesting set of photographs from the Williamantic Daily Chronicle supplied by Vin Crosbie on this site. The URL below will take you to the pages. Page 2 relates in part to Teletype. Page 3 shows the linecasters in operation.

The Italian web site Linotipa has a good picture of a teletype operating unit used in the 1950 and 60's. The URL below will display the picture.

George Finn (Mechanic)
Gold Coast

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