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It will do away with sending letters by mail

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A friend of mine remembers learning about “computer mail” back in the 1980s, which was available only to academics. Today, we know this system as email.

The use of email has certainly impacted the postal service, but not so completely as to “do away” with it. We still send letters and documents.

In the 1880s, the notion of combining the typewriter with the telegraph — or some other messaging system — was heralded as a distinctly practical possibility. The Illustrated Phonographic World, March 1895, observed, “A device is almost perfected for sending messages and having them written out automatically in Roman characters as rapidly as ten operators can work under the present system… It will in due time practically do away with the sending of letters by mail.”

This device is outlined in the following article:




© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Bill M December 15, 2018, 11:12 am

    Very interesting article. I’ve heard of the telegraph typewriter, but have seen or read very little about it. I know the tape and reader technology had been around since at least the last part of the 19th century and the 20th century brought the teletype. I guess it was never adpoted due to the noise and most peoples income back then. Amateur radio operators had facimile and teletype in the 60s.

    • Mark Adams December 15, 2018, 4:31 pm

      My research shows there were a number of typewriter-telegraph machines in the late 1800s, and it would take a bit of effort to synthesize into one post those machines — though perhaps I’ll pursue this. I did write about the Brook’s electric typewriter in ETCetera — see here https://etconline.org/backissues/ETC112.pdf — which could have served as some form of a typewriter-telegraph. My theory is that it was a prototype of a design Byron Brooks had patented, but it could have served some other purpose.

  • Richard P December 16, 2018, 11:16 pm

    Neat discovery. Thanks for sharing! I wish I understood the world of telegraphy a little better.

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