Telecommunications Access Milestones

History of Baudot TTY, Video & Other Notable Product Advances



1837      Samuel F.B. Morse demonstrates the telegraph, the first electrically operated machine for distant communication.


1874   Thomas Alva Edison patents the duplex telegraph, which allows two messages to be transmitted simultaneously over the same wire. Emile Baudot develops a five-level telegraphic coding system.


1876      Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates his voice telephone at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The telephone was invented while Bell was experimenting with ways to teach speech to deaf children.


1893      Elisha Gray's Telautograph, an electric writing machine for use with the telephone, is demonstrated at the World's Fair in Chicago.


1912      William E. Shaw demonstrates the Talkless Telephone.


1920-1929      Bell Telephone Laboratories established, resulting in development of the Deaf Set for hard-of-hearing persons and early prototypes that transmitted pictures over telephone lines.


1945      As a young man anxious to help in the war effort, Martin Sternberg joins the American Red Cross in New York City. He was given a part-time job to send and receive messages to soldiers on Teletype (TTY) machines in the Military Welfare Unit. Little did he dream that those machines would become a standard household item for thousands of deaf people a quarter of a century later.


1948      Bell Laboratories invents transistor and begins the trend toward miniature integrated circuit chips used in every day electronic devices as well as hearing aids and amplifiers.


1957      Bell Laboratories demonstrates a TV-telephone.



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 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, Utah. First transatlantic call is made using AT&T's PICTUREPHONE, which was also demonstrated to the public at the New York World's Fair. A hand-held meter that indicates when someone is speaking on the phone, the Visual Speech Indicator, is developed. The first long-distance call by deaf persons using electric writing machines occurs between the World Games for the Deaf in Washington, DC and San Fernando, California.


1965      Robert H. Weitbrecht Company is formed to market TTYs. 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. Carterfone lawsuit challenging AT&T's monopoly on telephone equipment stalls TTY distribution.


1966      Marsters travels to Europe and demonstrates TTY technology. Weitbrecht files a patent for the Frequency-Shift Teletypewriter. 18 TTYs are in use.


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


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


1969      NY-NJ Phone-TTY, Inc. is established by I. Lee Brody to help deaf and deaf/blind to have affordable TTYs in their homes. First international TTY call was made to Vancouver, BC from St. Louis, MO. ESSCO Communications and Ivy Electronics introduce competing acoustic couplers. NTID initiates research on TTYs and deaf user patterns. 600 TTYs are in use.


1970      US Patent Office approves Weitbrecht's patent for TTY modem. APCOM introduces Automatic Control Unit answering device for unattended TTY's. The first transpacific TTY call was made from Manila, Philippines to the NAD Convention in Minneapolis. TTY News service begins in Washington, DC while Houston inaugurates its weather service. TTY installed for deaf employees at US Government Printing Office in Washington, DC.



1971      Scanatype, the first digital TTY is introduced by ESSCO Communications. NY-NJ Phone-TTY introduces first accessible Dial-A-News service. Intel begins production of LSI (Large Scale Integrated) circuit chips. Maryland establishes hotline for the deaf. 1,500 TTYs are in use by the end of the year.


1972      St. Louis transmits news stories from UPI wire feeds while Indianapolis starts its weather service. Microminiaturization of electronic circuits lead to lighter and quieter devices manufactured by HAL Communications Corp. and MAGSAT. Andrea Saks, daughter of Andrew Saks brings the Phonetype modem to London, England. 2,500 TTYs are in use.


1973      More electronic TTYs come on the market. New York Telephone and New Jersey Bell follows Indiana Bell in waiving unlisted number charges for TTY users. David Saks founded the Organization for Use of the Telephone (OUT), dedicated to making telephones compatible with hearing aids and installing inductive loop amplification in public meeting places. An AT&T Picturephone-like prototype was tested at NTID and found to be uneconomical because the bandwidth required was equivalent to 300 regular telephone calls! The cost for the first TTY call from Hawaii to the mainland was $15.00 for 50 lines! The TTY network continues to grow with more than 3,000 listings.


1974      I. Lee Brody develops and distributes the first Braille TTY on the market in the United States.


1975      The first authorized transatlantic TTY call was placed between England and the United States. Later, a three-way TTY call took place between Washington, DC, San Francisco and Sweden during the World Federation of the Deaf Congress. The TTY network reaches the 10,000 benchmark.


1976      New inductive-type TTY phone signaler lights were introduced to the market. The number of TTYs in use doubles to 20,000.


1977      AT&T agrees to review telecommunication needs of handicapped and open centers for their telecommunication needs. Radio TTY center begins transmitting news to TTYs equipped with a radio receiver in the Philadelphia area. The Bell Telephone Company is 100 years old. SRI International is awarded 3-year $375,000 grant to develop ultra-portable TTY that succeeded up to the prototype stage but was not economical for production. 35,000 TTYs are in use.


1978      Pacific Bell provides two statewide centers in California to provide technical assistance to people with disabilities on telecommunication equipment. I. Lee Brody is elected as honorary member of the Telephone Pioneers of America.


1979      Telecommunication Device for the Deaf (TDD) is accepted as the appellation for all TTY-like devices.


1980      AT&T begins toll free TTY operator service. Electronic messaging (e-mail) experiments are conducted with DEAF-NET in Washington, DC, San Francisco, CA and with HERMES in Boston, MA.


1981      AT&T reduces long distance rates for TTY users. Electronic Industries Association (EIA) invites TTY manufacturers to develop standards so TTYs can work with each other without disrupting the telephone network.


1982      Krown Research develops ASCII/Baudot TTY. APCOM closes. Canada begins Operator Assistance Service Center. Digital hearing aids become available. 180,000 TTYs are in use.


1983      Robert Weitbrecht passes away from injuries sustained after being hit by an automobile. Phone-TTY develops CM-4 TTY modem and TTY software for personal computers and demonstrates it the following year at the NAD Convention in Baltimore. AT&T establishes the nationwide Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf Center to meet the special long-distance telecommunication needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing customers as well as people with speech-related disabilities.



1984      Tariffs end for telephone equipment, opening them up to competition. AT&T establishes Special Needs Center in New Jersey. Pacific Bell distributes Braille TTYs to deaf-blind consumers. EIA publishes seventh draft of TTY compatibility standards regarding operation with a private-line telephone network providing ASCII as an option in addition to the traditional Baudot codes.


1985      Krown Research introduces their dual TTY/ASCII modems while Ultratec introduces a low-cost basic TTY. Audiobionics introduces portable synthetic-voice talking TTYs which never caught on. Computer software showing sign language alphabet hand shapes is developed. Distribution of free TTYs begin in many states.


1986      Phone TTY develops TTY e-mail and dial-a-news bulletin board systems (BBS) and automated relay software. BBS' that are accessible to both TTYs and computers proliferate in many cities. Integrated Microcomputer Systems introduce computers included with internal TTY/ASCII modems. EIA completes ninth draft of TTY compatibility standards while the number of manufacturers dwindles. Digital circuits integrated in analog hearing aids.


1987      Ultratec introduces Intelemodem, their dual TTY/ASCII modem. California opens first statewide, 24-hour, 7 days a week relay service, operated by AT&T - 80,000 calls were made in the first month.


1988      Ultratec develops pay phone TTYs for use in airports, schools, etc. Selective Technologies develops portable compact TTY for briefcase or purse. DCI Deafnet e-mail service becomes Deaftek offering bulletin board services. DiRAD announces a breakthrough technology allowing interactive menu and voice mail systems to work with standard TTYs in conversational format.


1989      Pay phone TTY is installed at Chicago's O'Hare Airport. Andrew Saks who founded APCOM and pushed for TTY tax deduction passes away. New York State School for the Deaf implements DiRAD's first fully "TTY Compatible" voice mail system.


1990      Fiber optic technology emerges, making videophones feasible. Portable and pay phone TTYs enter the market. Phone-TTY develops CARS-III, an advanced TRS software that allows automated billing, voice pass-through and quicker ASCII handshake. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becomes law, requiring equal access for all Americans, including those with disabilities.


1991      Phone TTY tests MacIntosh TTY software with its CM-4 modem.


1992      FUTURA TTY software is released - compatible with Hayes and TTY modems. 49 states and the District of Columbia establish telecommunication relay services. DiRAD receives two US patents and refines its current system, incorporating a method to insure both sending and receiving TTYs are in the correct mode, eliminating garbled characters throughout the entire call.


1993      Innovations to speed Baudot rates and allow interruptions appear on TTYs. First international payphone TTY call is made from Britain to TDI offices. GTE introduces the three-digit 7-1-1 number for relay in Hawaii.


1994      Contel develops software so TTY users can access automated voice mail systems. V.18 voluntary modem standards with Baudot codes are adopted by the European Union, thanks to the efforts of Dick Brandt, chair of the NEC Foundation TTY Standards Project. MCI develops 1st TTY calling card that uses TTY text prompts instead of audio prompts. NEXION introduces first TTY/ASCII/FAX modems capable of 19200 bps. Ameriphone introduces first TTY/VCO products for voice carry-over users. National Association of State Relay Administrators (NASRA) is established.



1995      Sprint conducts Video Relay Service (VRS) experiments in Texas. DiRAD develops Ultrasilent® Workstation, a device used to automatically convert standard ASCII text to Baudot text, which is used in interactive menus and voice mail systems. This device generates Baudot prompts from an internal dictionary with participation of TDI.


1996      New low-cost portable TTYs as well as digital behind-the-ear and in-the-ear hearing aids come on the market.


1997      Wireless communication devices (cellular phones, FAX, E-mails, pagers) fill the airwaves. I. Lee Brody passes away.


1998      8x8 Company rolls out Video-TTY, an attachment to a television set that enables parties to see each other as they type.


1999      Lucent Technologies was first to announce a network solution to TTY and digital wireless telephone incompatibility for use in two types of wireless technologies. (Implementation should occur within two years.) Ameriphone, Krown and Ultratec develop TTYs with 2.5 audio jacks that connect to analog cellular phones and household cordless phones as well as microphones and handsets for VCO and HCO users. New generation of amplified phones by Ameriphone, Ultratec and Williams Sound provide clarity for hard of hearing users in telephone conversations. Electronic Telecommunications, Inc. unveils Intercept, a product that sends TTY tones along with voice recordings when TTY callers encounter messages saying that the number dialed is no longer in service. Two-way pagers with TTY, FAX and e-mail capabilities gain popularity on the road. Ultratec and Sprint jointly conduct FasTran trials to improve TRS services using speech recognition technology. Phone-TTY of New York-New Jersey donates I Lee Brody's TTY collection to Gallaudet University. Krown develops Pocket-VCO device for users to read relay text on phone handset.


2000      Gallaudet Press publishes Dr. Harry Lang's book, A Phone of Our Own, detailing the birth of the TTY network. Broadband technology shows promise of feasible and economical telecommunications using video for sign language or speechreading. Bell Atlantic and GTE merges and becomes Verizon. Bill Gates of Microsoft assures advocates that the computer keyboard will not become obsolete when voice systems become prevalent. AOL/Time Warner merger prompts calls to standardize competing Internet instant messaging protocols. V.18 modem protocol inserted in telephone gateway systems as part of proposed TextDirect system to give Europeans instant access to TRS services. Ultratec develops CapTel line of phones for automatic on site text transcription via TRS. Teltronics introduces new mobile computing software that translates speech to text and sign language.


2001      Broadband gains a foothold in 8 million American households. Texas subsidizes purchases of web cameras for Video Relay Service (VRS) users while Washington becomes the third state to implement VRS. MCI WorldCom and AT&T Relay implement IP-Relay trials, allowing TTY users to make relay calls through the Internet. AT&T Relay adds TTY-to-TTY User Voice Intercept services for TTY callers who wish to reach TTY users in hotels, hospitals or other places having a switchboard. Wyndtell users gain wireless access to the Internet. Two localities in South Carolina initiate "reverse-911" services to alert deaf and hard of hearing citizens of impending severe weather via TTY. MAC computer users enjoy TTY access with SoftTTY. Two-way messaging grows with AT&T Wireless offering of text messaging on mobile phones and AOL offering pagers for their customers. Eyeball Chat software links competing Instant Messaging (IM) services and video conferencing capabilities via web cams.


2002      First models of digital wireless cell phone handsets with TTY compatibility now on the market. Sprint initiates their version of IP-Relay after FCC permits reimbursement of all Internet-based TRS calls. CSD and Sprint offers nationwide video relay service and gives away free webcams.


2003      Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP raises many new accessibility and funding questions as traditional landline telephone service wanes.  High-end wireless PDA devices boasts superior text messaging capabilities.  Lormar Logic Co., LLC initiates new pager-to-relay service using AOL Instant Messaging.  Hospitals nationwide turn to Video Remote Interpreting or VRI to address accessibility issues by deaf and hard of hearing patients.  DeafWorks develop new flasher to alert deaf users of incoming IM message.