Telex and Teleprinters

  Diemmess 18:18 10 May 2006

Really old technology, but had an important function in its time.

During National Service I briefly visited RAF Box on the edge of Wiltshire. This was an old mine which was then being used as a secure coms centre for the RAF.

I wasn't technically involved but I was told of an annoyance for the CO.
With signals time online in short supply, it seemed that some operators were maintaining the steady rhythm of their machines in distant outposts of the Empire by pressing the spacer key to keep the tackety rhythm while they decided what next to type.

The result was yards and yards of signal on paper tape which wasted time re-transmitting all the spaces that had been typed.
The Beeb never seemed to have that problem on a Saturday night with the football results, though the teleprinter did hammer on when there was nothing to say.

Things have improved a bit haven't they! :o))

  spikeychris 18:28 10 May 2006

Great tale.

  octal 18:35 10 May 2006

I used to work in a COMCEN, don't talk to me about tape, miles of the damned stuff and I used to have to read the tape to find out where the headers where so that I could put them in the tape head for onward transmission. I used to chop some the spaces off the tape before I re-transmitted it to the next operator to save their nerves with all that racket go on with several machines.

  pj123 22:13 10 May 2006

Five Unit Tape. Yes, when I worked for Cable and Wireless (a long time ago 1970s) we had to read it at around 18 words a minute.

Easy way to find the beginning of a message:

Spaces (all five holes) then Carriage return, then Line Feed. After all these years I still reckon I can read it. Same with Morse Code I can still read it, maybe not as fast as I used to be able to (35wpm) but still good.

  wolfie3000 23:41 10 May 2006

me and a few freinds went to box mines iv been into the bit they call the cathedral its HUGE,

It got its name because they reckon st pauls cathedral could fit inside this huge hole underground and after seeing it that wouldnt surprise me.

Iv heard lots of stories too about box mines
Like the m.o.d. still keep secret machinary down there closest we got was we found infra red cameras (switched on and working) down there.

The tunnels stretch for miles underground and without proper equipment you could get lost for weeks.

click here

  Diemmess 07:50 11 May 2006

My glimpse of that unreal underground world was made when I had to see the C.O. about my own above ground responsibilities.

The particular signal was one caused by a scheduled flight by Prince Philip then a shiny new pilot, who intended to fly from Scotland to Hamble (Hampshire) the following day in a Chipmonk.
Its purpose was to alert all sea and mountain rescue units all the way down!
I remember RAF Valley as well as East Anglian sea rescue units were signalled and the tape ran to yards and yards of paper including masses of these spaces.

  octal 17:59 12 May 2006

Bet yer remember this? click here

  DieSse 23:02 12 May 2006

I well remeber the President of one US company I worked for, had a Telex machine in his office, with the salutary notice on top of it

"90% Market Share is Never for Ever"

  wiz-king 09:43 13 May 2006

That's a new model compared to mine, I remember being called to the phone and coming back to find the floor coverd with what seemed like a mile of tape, someone had come up on the calling frequency and I had left the tape perf on!!

  pj123 11:48 13 May 2006

octal, I remember that as well. I was the communications officer for a large International Construction Company. We had 6 Transtel telex machines, but I was the only one who could read the 5 unit tape. Fortunately, BT brought out new telex machines (Cheetah) which didn't use tape but had a storage disk. Good news for me because if we ever had to find and resend an old telex message I didn't have to spend hours searching through miles of tape to find it.

  Mike D 17:55 13 May 2006


That's an old one, give me a good old Teleprinter 7ERP any time.

I remember seeing PO telegraphists typing messages without the benefit of a hardcopy, straight on to tape.


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