Joe and Mary Slotnick
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 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 about it?

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, on Tuesday.

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!

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.
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 company!

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.

Joe Slotnick

 

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 
electrical outlet. 

October 26. 2014 

Donated to SMECC by Joe Slotnick 

Cradle was a custom built by Weitbrecht out of wood.


 


__ The Talk Below was delivered by JOSEPH S. SLOTNICK   February 6, 1969 at 11:00 A.M. ___


 

THE TELEPHONE-TELEPRINTER SYSTEM: ITS HISTORY. DEVELOPMENT AND IMPLICATIONS 

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 procuring, servicing

and installing teleprinter machines with the enabling electronic "black box."

This story begins in 1963. Actually, it really goes back long before that,

say about 20 years ago, when Robert H. Weitbrecht, an exceptionally brilliant

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 Laboratories. His work

involves research into and development of quite sophisticated electronics

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. James C.

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. Marsters' meeting

Mr. Weitbrecht.

 

Let us now examine other modes of using the telephone that have been

developed and that would hold particular interest for the deaf person. I am

speaking here about deaf-to-deaf communications methods; this necessarily

precludes discussion of the speech indicator which is a very valuable tool for

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 television screen.

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 becomes commercially available.

, ,

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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.

 

Mr. Weitbrecht's 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 back into 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 and associated 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 words-per-minute variety; 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.

 

From 1964 through 1965 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 to make 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 companies themselves.

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 large

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 convention of the Alexander Graham Bell

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

by the participants of the convention, among them the twenty people (deaf) who

were then forming the Oral Deaf Adults Section of the Bell Association. Also

on hand to observe was the just-elected president of the National Association of

the Deaf, Hr. Robert Sanderson.

 

 

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a marvel of electronic engineering and development. The name PHONETYPE is a

registered 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 was formed and chartered by these

same men for liability purposes. This name and that of the R.H. Weitbrecht

Company are practically synonymous, but it is the Applied Communications Corporation

name that you see on the PHONETYPES. and their other products.

 

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 in SFVSC.

The number is growing fast; the growth is limited only by the number of available

surplus teleprinters and volunteers to pick them up, service them, and install them.

Both the Western Union and the American Telephone and Telegraph 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 was formed 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 Dr. Marsters.

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 answering, services are rather

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 teleprinters

with the aid of PHONETYPES? We all know that the writteword is a powerful aid

 

 

 

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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

"bothering" 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

emergencies!

 

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

ed-2/14/69

,r

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

 

 

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