Friday, February 22, 2008

Yesterday's high technology lives on

I loved this piece from the Economist about telex service (shouldn't the "t" in teletype and telex perhaps be in upper-case form?). It's called "A faint ping: an ancestor of e-mail lives on." Apparently, it's the rotary telephone dial that makes it a Telex kind of Teletype transmission. I think of Teletype as being incoming, at least as I knew it. Wikipedia tries to explain some of the nuances of the systems, and I found an on-line entry about the Associated Press. Anyone who ever worked in a shipping department during a certain period of time is familiar with sending and receiving via Telex. Wasn't that an ITT brand name? I can't remember. I'm sure there was once a Teletype Corporation. It wasn't fun to deal with these machines. As I recall, once a connection was established, it was possible to transmit "live," but it was much better to prepare a paper tape in advance of setting up the connection and then using that to send, as from a recording, which in a sense it was. The machines were extremely tricky and temperamental, and time was money. It's interesting to know that Telex is still very much alive in Japan, which was one of my most frequent connections way back when. I've also been around news-wire machines. Some of the incoming stuff would be routine; at unexpected times, unexpected transmissions would cause everybody to run to the basket. As I recall, some law offices and many radio stations had these Teletypes. I hadn't realized that ocean-going ships are still required, for safety reasons, to have a Telex on board.


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