Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Re-inventing the alphabet

The very first ticker just displayed numbers for the price of gold. That little device was invented by Mr. S.S. Laws. It was called the gold indicator. But mere months later Thomas Edison invented what was the true grandfather of our modern device. More here.

It seems counter intuitive but Edison's telegraph printed characters on paper tape.The printer was invented with his device, not after. It was only later that wireless operators would learn to read the dots and dashes directly. In the early 1900s, as the volume of telegraph messages created the need to print more quickly; the dots and dashes weren't optimal.So in the early 1900s operators saw new printing telegraph devices (tickers) promising to increase printing speed! this was acheived two ways which in the end are somewhat related. More here.

1. More efficient printers:
This was usually done by minimizing mechanical movement. But new materials and more complicated spring-loaded mechanisms shaved off seconds.

2. Simpler sets of letterforms:
This reduced the amount of movement that the printing elements had to make. Simpler units were lighter, cheaper and potentially faster on paper.
These systems use the dots and dashes of Morse code to instruct the printing of letter forms. Few if any of these novel alphabets were used, as printers became at least adequately faster mechanically . Ultimately it was only the transmission of ascii signals to dot matrix printers that in 1961 finally revolutionized the old system. None-the-less these old ideas are interesting indeed.