Telautograph

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An early telautograph Telautograph-01.png
An early telautograph

The telautograph, an analog precursor to the modern fax machine, transmits electrical impulses recorded by potentiometers at the sending station to servomechanisms attached to a pen at the receiving station, thus reproducing at the receiving station a drawing or signature made by the sender. It was the first such device to transmit drawings to a stationary sheet of paper; previous inventions in Europe had used rotating drums to make such transmissions.

Fax method of transmitting images, often of documents

Fax, sometimes called telecopying or telefax, is the telephonic transmission of scanned printed material, normally to a telephone number connected to a printer or other output device. The original document is scanned with a fax machine, which processes the contents as a single fixed graphic image, converting it into a bitmap, and then transmitting it through the telephone system in the form of audio-frequency tones. The receiving fax machine interprets the tones and reconstructs the image, printing a paper copy. Early systems used direct conversions of image darkness to audio tone in a continuous or analog manner. Since the 1980s, most machines modulate the transmitted audio frequencies using a digital representation of the page which is compressed to quickly transmit areas which are all-white or all-black.

Potentiometer Type of resistor, usually with three terminals

A potentiometer is a three-terminal resistor with a sliding or rotating contact that forms an adjustable voltage divider. If only two terminals are used, one end and the wiper, it acts as a variable resistor or rheostat.

In control engineering a servomechanism, sometimes shortened to servo, is an automatic device that uses error-sensing negative feedback to correct the action of a mechanism. It usually includes a built-in encoder or other position feedback mechanism to ensure the output is achieving the desired effect.

Contents

The telautograph's invention is attributed to Elisha Gray, who patented it on July 31, 1888. Gray's patent stated that the telautograph would allow "one to transmit his own handwriting to a distant point over a two-wire circuit." It was the first facsimile machine in which the stylus was controlled by horizontal and vertical bars. [1] The telautograph was first publicly exhibited at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago.

Elisha Gray American electrical engineer

Elisha Gray was an American electrical engineer who co-founded the Western Electric Manufacturing Company. Gray is best known for his development of a telephone prototype in 1876 in Highland Park, Illinois. Some recent authors have argued that Gray should be considered the true inventor of the telephone because Alexander Graham Bell allegedly stole the idea of the liquid transmitter from him, although Gray had been using liquid transmitters in his telephone experiments for more than two years previously. Bell's telephone patent was upheld in numerous court decisions.

Worlds Columbian Exposition Worlds Fair held in Chicago in 1893

The World's Columbian Exposition was a world's fair held in Chicago in 1893 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival to the New World in 1492. The centerpiece of the Fair, the large water pool, represented the long voyage Columbus took to the New World. Chicago bested New York City, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis for the honor of hosting the fair. The Exposition was an influential social and cultural event and had a profound effect on architecture, sanitation, the arts, Chicago's self-image, and American industrial optimism.

Chicago City in Illinois, United States

Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois and the third most populous city in the United States. As of the 2017 census-estimate, it has a population of 2,716,450, which makes it the most populous city in the Midwestern United States. Chicago is the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States, and the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, which is often referred to as "Chicagoland." The Chicago metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, the fourth largest in North America, and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.

Telautograph patent schema Telautograph-1888 electronic writing device.png
Telautograph patent schema

While the patent schema's geometry implies vertical and horizontal coordinates, systems used in the 20th Century (and presumably before) had a different coordinate scheme, based on transmitting two angles.

In an 1888 interview in The Manufacturer & Builder (Vol. 24: No. 4: pages 85–86) Gray made this statement: [2]

By my invention you can sit down in your office in Chicago, take a pencil in your hand, write a message to me, and as your pencil moves, a pencil here in my laboratory moves simultaneously, and forms the same letters and words in the same way. What you write in Chicago is instantly reproduced here in fac-simile. You may write in any language, use a code or cipher, no matter, a fac-simile is produced here. If you want to draw a picture it is the same, the picture is reproduced here. The artist of your newspaper can, by this device, telegraph his pictures of a railway wreck or other occurrences just as a reporter telegraphs his description in words.
The inventor Elisha Gray PSM V14 D424 Elisha Gray.jpg
The inventor Elisha Gray

By the end of the 19th century, the telautograph was modified by Foster Ritchie. Calling it the telewriter, Ritchie's version of the telautograph could be operated using a telephone line for simultaneous copying and speaking. [1]

The telautograph became very popular for the transmission of signatures over a distance, and in banks and large hospitals to ensure that doctors' orders and patient information were transmitted quickly and accurately. Teleautograph systems were installed in a number of major railroad stations to relay hand-written reports of train movements from the interlocking tower to various parts of the station. [3] [4] The teleautograph network in Grand Central Terminal included a public display in the main concourse into the 1960s; a similar setup in Chicago Union Station remained in operation into the 1970s.[ citation needed ]

Grand Central Terminal Railway terminal in New York City

Grand Central Terminal is a commuter rail terminal located at 42nd Street and Park Avenue in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Grand Central is the southern terminus of the Metro-North Railroad's Harlem, Hudson and New Haven Lines, serving the northern parts of the New York metropolitan area. It also contains a connection to the New York City Subway at Grand Central–42nd Street. The terminal is the third-busiest train station in North America, after Toronto Union Station and New York Penn Station.

Chicago Union Station major railroad station which opened in 1925 in Chicago

Chicago Union Station is a major railroad station that opened in 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, replacing an earlier station built in 1881. It is the only remaining intercity rail terminal in Chicago, and is the city's primary terminal for commuter trains. The station stands on the west side of the Chicago River between West Adams Street and West Jackson Boulevard, just outside the Chicago Loop. Including approach and storage tracks, it covers about nine and a half city blocks — mostly underground, buried beneath streets and skyscrapers. The station serves as Amtrak's flagship station in the Midwest, and is also the downtown terminus for six Metra commuter lines.

Sample work of telautograph PSM V44 D062 Sample work of telautograph.jpg
Sample work of telautograph

A Telautograph was used in 1911 to warn workers on the 10th floor about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire that had broken out two floors below. An example of a Telautograph machine writing script can be seen in the 1956 movie Earth vs the Flying Saucers as the output device for the mechanical translator.

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City on March 25, 1911 was the deadliest industrial disaster in the history of the city, and one of the deadliest in U.S. history. The fire caused the deaths of 146 garment workers – 123 women and 23 men – who died from the fire, smoke inhalation, or falling or jumping to their deaths. Most of the victims were recent Italian and Jewish immigrant women aged 14 to 23; of the victims whose ages are known, the oldest victim was 43-year-old Providenza Panno, and the youngest were 14-year-olds Kate Leone and Rosaria "Sara" Maltese.

Telautograph Corporation changed its name several times. In 1971, it was acquired by Arden/Mayfair. In 1993, Danka Industries purchased the company and renamed it Danka/Omnifax. In 1999, Xerox corporation purchased the company and called it the Omnifax division, which has since been absorbed by the corporation.

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References

  1. 1 2 The worldwide history of telecommunications. Wiley-IEEE.
  2. "Elisha Gray Deserves Top Billing In Brownsville History". Glenn Tunney.
  3. Chicago, Illinois. Reading the teleautograph in the trainmaster's office of the Union Station. The messages originate in the interlocking tower and are carried to teleautographs in various parts of the station; the trainmaster's office, the passenger agent's office, information desk, etc., photograph by Jack Delano, Feb. 1943 Feb., Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress).
  4. Walter J. Armstrong, Mechanical and Electrical Equipment of the Toronto Union Station, Journal of the Engineering Institute of Canada, Vol. 4 (1921); pages 87-97, see particularly page 95.

Patents

Patent images in TIFF format