Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Texting in the 1930's

It wasn't that long ago that my (then) teenage son asked me how I had gone online in 1958. He was imaging my bedroom filled with a huge UNIVAC computer.  He just couldn't imagine a world without the Internet.

His generation probably can not imagine a world without texting, either. But, unlike the Internet, texting did exist in the 1950's.  But we didn't know it as texting.

More to the point - does anyone out there remember Telex?

I do.  In 1981, I (living in the United States) got a job with a company that did business with several companies in England.  We needed a way to communicate fairly quickly with them for confirmation of certain transactions.  Quickly, that is, for the early 1980's. 

Keep in mind, there was no Internet, no email (well, there was email even as far back as the late 1960's, but it wasn't accessible for the majority of us).  We did have telephones but trans-Atlantic service was still expensive.  And fax?  This was just starting out.  We didn't have a fax machine.  What we did have was....


Our company had a Telex machine and a trained operator.  A Telex machine (and yes, they still exist) is basically a telephone that doesn't use speech.  It has a keyboard and a printer, and the owner subscribed to a Telex network.  You could "call" anyone who had a Telex machine (they each had a number assigned to them) and type out a message.  The recipient would print out the message, and could then respond back in kind.

The service was enabled across both sides of the Atlantic back in the 1930's and still exists today.

These operators didn't know it, but they were texting, 1930's style.

I never did have to learn to use the Telex. But I bet it would have been fun.  And you know what?  Nothing in those days was instantaneous, but I don't think we were any the worse off for it.

Am I the only one to remember this original form of texting?  And, does anyone else think things were just a little "saner" back before we could do things instantaneously?

1 comment:

  1. I vaguely remember letterhead containing telex #s. At least I THINK I do.... seems so long ago :(


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