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TTY Network is Born (1964 – 1970)

(1964) Robert H. Weitbrecht, a deaf scientist develops an acoustic coupler modified for Baudot transmission. James C. Marsters, a deaf orthodontist, sends Weitbrecht a Teletype Model 32ASR and asks that a system be set up for Marsters to communicate with Weitbrecht from Pasadena to Redwood City, California. Unlike Weitbrecht, Marsters does not have a ham radio license, so they decide to use the public phone system. Baudot-coded teletypewriter (TTY) machines become available when AT&T, Western Union, and other companies converted to a new telegraphic code. Weitbrecht’s coupler is first publicly shown at the 1964 Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf Conference in Salt Lake City. The first transatlantic video call was made by AT&T with it’s PicturePhone, demonstrated at the World’s Fair in New York City where a three-minute call costs $21 (or $120 in today’s dollars). A hand-held meter that indicates when someone is speaking on the phone, the Visual Speech Indicator, was developed. The first long-distance call by deaf persons using electric writing machines occurs between the World Games for the Deaf in Washington, D.C. and San Fernando, California.

(1965) Robert H. Weitbrecht Company is formed to market the new TTY modems. The first transcontinental TTY call takes place between California and New York. Weitbrecht experiments with voice-carry-over and other relay concepts suggested by Marsters and Andrew Saks. The Carterfone lawsuit challenging AT&T’s monopoly on telephone equipment stalls TTY distribution in America.

(1966) Marsters travels to Europe and demonstrates TTY technology. Weitbrecht applies for a patent for the Frequency-Shift Teletypewriter. Eighteen TTYs are in use.

(1967) Applied Communications (APCOM), Inc. replaces the R. H. Weitbrecht Company in manufacturing the Phonetype modem. Sanford Research Institute (SRI) looks into the telecommunication needs of deaf persons. Paul Taylor establishes the first local telecommunications group, the Telephone/Teletype Communicators of St. Louis. Only 25 teletypewriter stations were in operation for or by deaf people.

(1968) The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) adopts the eight-level American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII) as the federal standard for computer data transmission. The National Technical Institute of the Deaf (NTID) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) conducts field tests of the Stromberg-Carlson Vistaphones. Weather News Service for deaf begins in St. Louis.

(1969) New York/New Jersey Phone-TTY, Inc. is founded by I. Lee Brody to help deaf and deaf/blind to have affordable TTYs in their homes. The first international TTY call was made to Vancouver, BC from St. Louis, Missouri. ESSCO Communications and Ivy Electronics introduce competing acoustic couplers. NTID initiates research on TTYs and deaf user patterns. 600 TTYs in use.

(1970) The U.S. Patent Office approves Weitbrecht’s patent for the TTY modem. APCOM introduces Automatic Control Unit answering device for unattended TTY’s. The first transpacific TTY call was made from Manila, Philippines to Minneapolis. A TTY was installed for deaf employees at the U.S. Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C.