As you can read in the book "The System Builders, the story of SDC"
by Claude Baum, I was one of the thousands of eager trainees in the
8-weeks' crash course in computer programming beginning June 23, 1959. I
was 7th in the class of 20 according to reports and was relieved to know
that "I was not that stupid, after all!" since I was indeed
worried about finishing the course.
Joe Slotnic tells us "We
finally found the picture I had wanted to send to you,
regarding the story of my interview with SDC and obtaining
employment with them. The date was probably April, 1966,
as the article speaks about me being MC at a luncheon at
the A. G.Bell Convention in Kansas City in 1966. I was a
young 31 years old at that time!"
There was an ad in the Boston Sunday Globe newspaper
that my first wife noticed (!) and asked me what I thought
It was by System Development Corporation and the ad was
looking for computer programmer trainees who could satisfy 5
criteria for employment... I do not remember all 5 criteria
but one of them was "US Citizenship required," and
another was "a suitable mathematical background."
I knew I could satisfy all of them so I took the ad with me
to work the next day, Monday. The ad said that interviews
would be lined up just for two days, Monday and Tuesday. Use
of the telephone (via TTYs and later use of relay services)
was not available for deaf people at that time, that was why
I took the ad with me to work on Monday. (I was working for
Raytheon Manufacturing Corp, and had been working for them
three years. I had started out as a layout draftsman,
pledging with them that I wished to go to night school and
take courses in mechanical engineering. The guy who
recruited me apparently had other ideas for me and hoped I
would become part of an "operations research"
group he was planning to start at Raytheon. To make a long
story short, things did not work out and I ended up being
just a clerical person doing essentially payroll type work.
I had my degree in Physical Sciences that I got from Harvard
in June 1955 and had graduated with nary an idea of what the
heck I wanted to do with my life!) I had our secretary (she
certainly was a great gal and a very cute one too) call the
recruiter for me. She worked hard on him, telling him that I
was a very personable and capable person and that he should
at least give me a chance to come in person and talk with
him. He finally consented to see me at 8am the next morning,
I was living in Methuen, MA, some 35 miles north of Boston,
where the recruiter was holding interviews in the (now
defunct) Statler Hotel. I got there, parked my car and was at
the recruiter's door at just before 8am. He answered the door,
looked at me puzzled and (I think) gasped when I told him I
had an appointment with him. Yes I did come, and here I am! He
said apologetically that he would like to step out for a cup
of coffee and a donut, and while he was doing that would I be
kind enough to work on 4 very short tests for him? I said
sure, and I did all 4 of them easily enough - they were
performance and aptitude type tests. When he came back, he
took the tests from me, gave me an employment application form
to fill out and we sat down to do them. I was about half-way
through with filling out the application form when he seized
it from me, exclaiming to me "you did all of the aptitude
tests and passed them easily! Apparently you have the basics
of what we are looking for! Can you tell me why you are
looking for this job?"
I smiled at him and said, well to tell the truth I thoroughly
hated the "work" that I was doing at Raytheon, and
proceeded to tell him a bit about it. Now I thought nothing of
it all at that time, but I did marvel later and especially now
about the fact that he and I were speaking to one another with
very little difficulty, communications wise. I am deaf in both
ears, and yes I do read lips to understand other people.
Different people move their lips differently and truth be told,
lip reading can be quite useless at times. My speech is fairly
understandable (many folks who are deaf in both ears do not
speak very well) but I do have problems with some hearing people
who are not used to my "deaf" voice. He did ask
questions about my hearing impairment and decided that it was
not a factor for me in pursuing a computer programmer training
career with SDC...
Remembering the pointers I had read about job interviews etc., I
tried to stand up and take my leave once or twice, but each time
he brushed me aside and continued with our conversations on the
job with SDC. The last time, when I sat down, he started outlining
the (very generous) benefits package that would come with a job
with SDC! I knew then that they really and truly wanted someone
like me! What I had hoped for, some 15 minutes or so of his time,
turned out to be a more than 2-hour interview! He had a list of
"books on computer programming" on a piece of paper that
he thought I should read for a primer of what the whole thing
entailed. There being no Xerox machines available I simply wrote
them down on a piece of paper for myself and feel very lucky that
at that time there were precious few books on the subject.
(Imagine the situation nowadays, with millions of books on the
subject available and a college computer background required too,
for someone aspiring to be a computer programmer or analyst!)
Before we parted he advised me to "discuss the move with your
wife, as it is a big move," (going from MA to California!) and
to read up on the subject some more. If and when I had made up my
mind, I could call... (he was going to say call collect, but
remembered that I could not use the telephone!) no, write a letter
to him and check with him. We parted very amiably and I drove home
to have lunch with my wife. I remember telling her: "I would be
a fool to turn down any offer from them, as it seems to be an
interesting field and a thing for the future!"
I went to work that afternoon, but spent most of the time then and the
next day or so at the library at Raytheon reading those computer books
and coming to the realization that writing computer programs would be
akin to "programming" the Friden calculator (noisy and all)
that I had on my desk at Raytheon, but the machine would be vastly
bigger and more capable! After one week I wrote the letter to SDC and
mailed it. The next Sunday there appeared again in the Boston Sunday
Globe another advertisement from SDC, same thing except that a
different recruiter's name was there. I had the secretary at work call
this guy, and he asked me who I had had my interview with (I no longer
remember his name) and said he was going to talk with him that
evening. I thanked him, worked the rest of the day and went home.
Waiting for me at home was a Western Union telegram telling me that
SDC wished to make me an offer for employment, and to call them
collect at my convenience to discuss the matter!
Next day I collared a fellow employee and asked him to make the call for
me? He did this and we had a 45-minute talk with the personnel
department at SDC, which culminated in their offering me a job!
My admiration for the SDC people and working with them was very high
indeed. I remember one quiz where I had the wrong answer for a
question, so I took it up with the instructor. He showed me why I was
wrong, but I asked him to wait, fetched the notebook from the guy I
was taking notes from and pointed out where I got my information. It
turned out that this guy doing the notes was in error himself, but he
had the right answer on his test paper! This gave the instructor a
glimpse into some of my problems - getting the wrong information by
accident and through no fault of my own! They did me a great favor in
assigning me to the Research & Development Dept with programming
work on the "new" IBM 709 computer! Most of the others in
the class were assigned to further work in SAGE. The reason for this,
they said, was that if I had been assigned to advanced SAGE
development with all its needs for instant communications etc I might
not have liked it very much, but doing work either by myself or with a
few others in the 709 environment would be more beneficial for me.
I left SDC 21 years later with quite different feelings. The company
had changed and so had the people within it. It was time for me to
leave, any way. But I had a great 21 years experience with the
Joe Slotnick, SDC Employee #4081.
Added note - And yes I was first deaf programmer at SDC but not first
deaf employee. A deaf girl in Personnel Dept contacted me when she saw
my picture etc in that SDC publication and had been there up to one year
before I joined the company. She was contemplating taking the
programming course and become a programmer. Don't know if she did that
nor do I remember her name!
Joe Slotnick meets Jim Marsters, Bob Weitbrecht and Andy Saks - and the TTY!
The first time I met Jim Marsters was at my house in West LA in 1964 - June or July - when I went home for lunch to meet him. His 1962 Porsche was parked on the street - yikes! - and I went in the front door. There he was, with his hearing aid attached to the General Telephone Company telephone instrument, completely dismantled. Jim was just finding out that this telephone instrument, different from the sets used by Pacific Telephone company users (made by Western Electric) actually DID NOT HAVE the magnetic leakage in the earpiece part that is needed by people with hearing aids set to the "T" setting. This is how I met Jim! (The information about magnetic leakage was important when the PhoneTypes were manufactured; I would pirate Western Electric units from vacant apartments or houses and use them for General Telephone company users so that their TTYs could function properly!)
Bob Weitbrecht and Andy Saks came into my life a little while later that summer when they and Andy's wife Jean and Richard Zellerbach (another deaf individual in our group) flew down in Zellerbach's plane from the Bay area for a meeting at the house in the San Fernando Valley that belonged to the parents of two hearing impaired children. We were all new members of the fledging Oral Deaf Adults Section (ODAS) of the A. G. Bell Association for he Deaf.
Right now (October 28, 2014) all the individuals named above have passed away except for Richard Zellerbach who is now in his early 90's.
I instantly became intrigued with the idea of the TTY system which was then in earnest development and fascinated with the idea of having one of my own. Jim Marsters had a Model 32 TTY attached to a home-made modem with dial wheel attached (strictly illegal at that time according to telephone company rules for equipment attached to the telephone lines) with which he talked with Weitbrecht and Saks up in northern CA. Marsters convinced Weitbrecht to "make a unit" specifically for me, which he did (SMECC has this gray box with Dymo labels attached on it, along with its wooden cradle box) and delivered it, along with a Model 26 TTY machine with its table, to my house in West LA in April of 1966. I had this machine until the early 1980's when I got a Model 28; I even got another Model 26 and installed it in my office where I worked at System Development Corporation. They were gracious enough to allow me to have my own private line, separate from the central line with its individual extensions. I wish I had kept those Model 26's; as I understand that working units of this machine are extremely hard to come by these days. Not many of them were manufactured, as opposed to the thousands or millions of Model 15s, 19s, and 28s that were manufactured before the advent of the lighter, plastic Model 32s.
Marsters, Weitbrecht and Saks formed their company, Applied Communications Corporation (nicknamed APCOM), to manufacture and sell PhoneType units.
Bob Weitbrecht was the engineering expert in APCOM and took care of routine maintenance and repairs of PhoneType units. He also tinkered in research. Andy Saks was the business part of the company; he took care of finances and even researched the use of TTYs as a "medical expense exemption" that deaf folks could use on their income tax returns. Marsters - who still worked at his orthodontic practice - was veritably the public relations person for APCOM.
In 40 short years, however, with the advent of micro-electronics and the spread of use of the ASCII code, the TTYs, running on the BAUDOT system, became truly "dinosaurs"!
It was an adventure in my life, and I am proud to have been part of it.
Ed, no I have no pictures of my old M26 machine attached to the old
PhoneType. I used it continuously in my house at 822 Oxford Ave,
Marina del Rey, CA until I moved out of it in spring of 1982. With
new lady friend Mary Robinson (we married on Nov 5, 1983) I moved into
this house we live in (been here 32 years!) and she would have no truck
with a noisy TTY in the house (my first wife is a deaf lady). So I
guess that PhoneType was never used again after then.
(Both my M26 machines were the full regalia - table with special paper
roll hanger and the machine - and I had a third unit without table I
used for spare parts. Heaven knows where they are today, sorry.)
Original "PhoneType" modem built by hand by Bob Weitbrecht
for Joe Slotnick, set up with a Model 26 TTY station at Joe's home
at 822 Oxford Ave, Marina del Rey, CA on April 2, 1966.
This unit preceded the first lot ("The Green Lot") of PhoneTypes
manufactured by APCOM.
The long cord for the cradle was put in by Joe as his TTY was in a
closet (!) and the long cord made it easy to use any telephone
instrument in the house that was brought to the closet area! Later
a phone extension was established in the closet as well as an
October 26. 2014
Donated to SMECC by Joe Slotnick
Cradle was a custom built by Weitbrecht out of wood.
Talk Below was delivered by JOSEPH S. SLOTNICK February 6,
1969 at 11:00 A.M. ___
THE TELEPHONE-TELEPRINTER SYSTEM: ITS HISTORY.
Leadership Training Program in the Area of the Deaf; San
Fernando Valley State
College. February 6, 1969 at 11:00 A.M.
My talk today covers the telephone-teleprinter system that
was developed by
deaf people for use mainly by deaf people. 11anyof you
here may have seen or
heard of this system, and some of you have actually had
experience with the system,
from a user-only orientation all the way to involvement in
and installing teleprinter machines with the enabling
electronic "black box."
This story begins in 1963. Actually, it really
goes back long before
say about 20 years ago, when Robert H. Weitbrecht, an
deaf man, became interested in ham radio operations
and took up radio teletype
communications as a hobby. Mr. Weitbrecht has a Bachelor's
degree from the
University of California at Berkeley, and a Master's
degree from the University
of Chicago, both in Astronomy. Astronomy is still a great
interest in life for
Mr. vleitbrecht, but his present position is as
a research physicist ~-1ithStanford
Research Institute, Menlo Park, in its Communications
involves research into and development of quite
equipment for SRI's customers, which include the united
States Air Force, Lick
Observatory, and others.
Such is the background of this story as it
leads to 1963, when Dr.
Marsters of Pasadena met Hr. Weitbrecht.
Dr. Marsters is a deaf man, a respected
orthodontist who has a successful practice. He has had a
continuing interest in
communication aids for deaf people. He has been involved
in the making and selling
baby-cry alarms, vibrating alarm clocks, telephone speech
indicators and other
such gadgets, electronic or otherwise, that he felt would
help deaf people in their ..
everyday lives. You can imagine the electric shock of Dr.
Let us now examine other modes of using the telephone that
developed and that would hold particular interest for the
deaf person. I am
speaking here about deaf-to-deaf communications methods;
which is a
deaf people in those deaf-to-hearing situations
involving use of the telephone.
First, there is the Electro-Writer. The Electro-Writer, I
have been told, has
been around - not five, not ten nor twenty years - but
ninety years~ It is a
marvelous instrument, but let us look at the cost factor.
Rental of special
telephone lines run to about fifty dollars a month, and
the Electro-Writer itself
must be purchased, at a cost of over one thousand dollars.
I do not need to
elaborate any further for you to realize the almost total
impracticality of the
system as far as the average deaf person is concerned.
Second, there is the
Picture-Phone which utilizes broad frequency bands for a
The Picture-Phone also requires special transmission
lines. It is still in
the experimental stage, and although it is quite possibly
the best thing that
deaf people could have as far as use of the telephone is
concerned, it promises
only to be quite expensive if
and when it
Suffice it to say here that both Dr. Marsters and Mr.
Weitbrecht knew that
waiting for such developments to come will be ,just
that - waiting. Marsters
asked Weitbrecht about the feasibility of devising Some
kind of interface between
a teleprinter and the telephone that would be analogous to
the interface between
a teleprinter and the short-wave radio as is used in RTTY
- radio teletype -
communications. After much discussion, three men - Dr.
Marsters, Mr. Weitbrecht,
and Mr. Andrew Saks (the last named is a deaf businessman)
- set up the R. H.
Weitbrecht Company to design and develop such an interface
between the teleprinter
and the telephone.
scheme (as far as my non-professional
mind can understand it)
involves converting teleprinter impulses at the
transmitting end into sound
intervals which are then sent over the telephone lines,
and the conversion at
the receiving end of those sound intervals
teleprinter impulses. The
teleprinters now commercially available are capable of
great speeds and sophisti- .
cation, but Weitbrecht confined himself to the 5-level
code and 60 words-per-minute
capability of most of the old teleprinters
used by both Western Union
and the American Telephone and Telegraph
companies. (I understand
that, with some modifications, the PHONETYPE can be
adapted for faster speeds
and higher-level codes.) Most of the old teleprinters
being phased out of
operations are of the 5-level code, GO
these were felt
to be the best for the use of deaf people as they are
available for very low cost,
if not for free.
a systematic debugging
and xedes tgn program was
carried out. The initial PHONETYPES (we called them
terminal units in those
days) were distributed and installed in strategic
locations in the United States
to help with the working out of the different lines and
circuits problem mentioned
previously. I am proud to say I was a small part of this
development. Calls were
made everywhere at different times; now ~1ehave a finished
product that is truly
The biggest problem that had to be overcome was
a unit that would
work reliably over the many different telephone circuits
and lines throughout the
United States. No help was forthcoming from the telephone
There are, you see, about 2,000 different independent
telephone companies in the
country, and not all of them are part of the nationwide
Bell Telephone system.
For example, right here in the Southern California
area we have two quite
telephone companies, the Pacific Telephone Company which
is part of the Bell
System, and the General Telephone Company. I know there
are other telephone
companies in this area, but the only one I have heard of
directly so far is the
One out in the Mission Hills-Granada Hills area which is
called the California.
Water and Telephone Company!
In June, 1964, at the biennial
Association for the Deaf in Salt Lake City, the three men
of the R.H. Weitbrecht
Company demonstrated a prototype telephone-teleprinter
system. It was witnessed
participants of the
convention, among them the twenty people (deaf) who
were then forming the Oral Deaf Adults Section of the Bell
on hand to observe was the just-elected president of the
National Association of
the Deaf, Hr. Robert Sanderson.
a marvel of electronic engineering and development. The
name PHONETYPE is a
trademark, and the PHONETYPE circuit has a patent pending, These
PHONETYPES have overcome a problem that had forced the
Bell System to develop
its TELEX system, using special lines for transmitting
teleprinter signals, and the
Western Union its TWX system.
The development of the PHONETYPE has cost tens of
thousands of dollars. It
is safe to say that the three men who put their money and
their faith into the
development of the system do not have much hope of
recovering very much of their
investment. Yet today, in the wake of the success and the
acceptance of the
PHONETYPE, they are involved with research and development
of other high-quality
aids for communication uses by deaf people.
The Applied Communications Corporation
and chartered by these
same men for liability purposes. This name and that of the
Company are practically synonymous, but it is the Applied
name that you see on the PHONETYPES. and their other
There are now several hundred PHONETYPE stations
across the country, including
some in the Federal government and in schools for
the deaf, as well as here
The number is growing fast; the growth
only by the number of available
surplus teleprinters and volunteers to pick them
up, service them, and install
Both the Western Union and the American Telephone
Company have been
very generous in donating to the system surplus teleprinters
as they become available.
The cost to the final "customer" is but the cost
of the PHONETYPE, and a nominal
fee charged to help with the procurement, servicing and
installation of the
teleprinters. Of course, a requisite for the
"customer" is regular telephone'
service in his place of residence.
The Teletypewriters for the Deaf, Inc. group
as a cooperative
venture between people in the Oral Deaf Adults Section of
the Bell Association
and the people in the National Association of the Deaf to
aid in the work
involved in ferreting out sources of surplus teleprinters
and picking them up.
servicing them and installing them. There are 6
representatives of the TD, Inc.
here in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, coordinated by
In St. Louis
there has been a phenomenal growth
of the teleprinter system.
It began when Paul Taylor, a deaf engineer then with
McDonnel Douglas Corp. as a
reconnaissance engineer, got a direct line with two
teleprinters between his house
and that of his in-laws. He found out about the PHONETYPE
system, and was instru~
mental in "selling" the idea to his deaf
friends. There are now approximately 60
stations in St. Louis, and they even have formed their own
answering service~ For
a fee they have hired a hearing person to be their
"ears," equipped him with a
PHOHETYPE and a teleprinter. You see, professional
expensive. Yet we have two instances of use of
professional services, one here in
Pasadena and the other up in Menlo Park.
What are the implications of such wide-spread use of these
with the aid of PHONETYPES? We all know that the
writteword is a powerful aid
in the development of language, and it is encouraging to
note that deaf people,
using the teleprinters, have picked up language
patterns of their friends as they
talk away on the machines! Deaf people can now call other
deaf people; this saves
heir hearing neighbors and friends. Deaf people can call other people,
whether deaf or riot, who are similarly equipped, and have
the hearing people on
the other end relay their messages to hearing people such
as doctors, dentists,
employment agencies, etc. You can imagine the use and the
value of the system for
Deaf people now have a powerful tool with which they may
communicate with each.
other, and indirectly, with hearing people. We can all be
proud of the fact that
the creative genius of man is such that a deaf person,
with a wonderful electronics
background, and with help and encouragement, can come up
with a product that is of
everlastingly great use for his fellow deaf friends.
JOSEPH S. SLOTNICK