By Bob Hentges,
Sioux City Journal Staff Writer
Iowa, Tuesday, July 30, 1968.
caption: Vicki Hurwitz types out a reply to a friend in St. Louis, Mo.,
as her husband, Tracy, reads the teletape message from the friend. The
deaf couple are using a Phonetype, a device which enables deaf persons
to communicate over ordinary telephone lines.
Hurwitz dialed a phone number in St. Louis Monday afternoon in the Sioux
City Journal newsroom, a half dozen reporters and editors stopped what
they were doing and gathered around to watch the "conversation."
Vicki and her
friend are both deaf.
Vicki and her
husband, Tracy, son of Mr. & Mrs. Harold Hurwitz, 826 18th St., have
been spending a week’s vacation visiting here. They dropped in at The
Journal to demonstrate an amazing device known as the Phonetype terminal
unit, which enables deaf persons to communicate by telephone.
involves a regular telephone, a teletype machine and the Phonetype, which
converts telephone signals into teletype signals and vice versa.
To make her call,
Vicki merely placed the handset of the direct-dial telephone into the
Phonetype cradle and pushed a button to turn the set on. She dialed her
friend’s number in St. Louis and a flashing light on the deaf friend’s
set signified the phone was "ringing".
then placed her phone in the Phonetype cradle, turned the power on and
typed "HELLO SAL HERE GA (Go Ahead)" on her teletype. This was
converted into a ticker tape on Vicki’s machine and the two began to
chatter away on the teletypes, with the "conversation" of both
recorded on tape instantly at both Sioux City and St. Louis.
This device was
developed in the early 1960’s by Robert H. Weitbrecht, a deaf California
communications expert, and two other deaf men who were dissatisfied with
the then available means of communication.
Aided by the
National Association for the Deaf, they developed the unit to the point
where experimental installations in New York City, Washington,
Indianapolis, Chicago and points in California were able to communicate
with each other by teletypewriter over regular long distance telephone
circuits with no difficulty and with no interference on other phone calls.
The trio formed a
corporation to develop and manufacture Phonetypes. The Alexander Graham
Bell Association for the Deaf, a national non-profit organization, asked
the American Telephone & Telegraph Co. in 1966 if the association
could have surplus teletypewriters which then were being destroyed. After
legal questions were settled, AT&T agreed last February to release 200
teletypewriters to the association.
A committee was
formed to distribute them and there now is a long waiting list for more.
Additional teletypewriters are expected to be made available through the
RCA Communications Corp.
teletypewriters, which cost about $800 new, are donated by AT&T and
Western Union. Reconditioning and rewiring to adapt to the Phonetype may
cost from $10 to $25 a machine.
A Phonetype costs
about $300 which barely covers the cost of manufacture. Installation and
maintenance cost the same as for an ordinary phone.
Tracy and Vicki
Hurwitz are enthusiastic boosters of the Phonetype network and carry a
portable Phonetype with them on their travels to keep in touch with their
deaf friends back home in St. Louis.
Tracy, 25, is a
1961 graduate of Central High School and attended Morningside College for
two years. He was graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in
1965 with a B.S. degree in electrical engineering and now is a specialized
programmer with the McDonnell-Douglas Corp. in St. Louis.
He is a former
carrier boy for The Journal and received an outstanding carrier award in
1959. Tracy also was the recipient of a Journal scholarship to
Although deaf, he
and his wife both can speak.
Sioux City is my former home town," he said, "I want to
familiarize the deaf people and other interested people in Sioux City with
this network. I believe it can open doors for them."
ARTICLE HAD A FEW NAME ERRORS AND SPELLING CORRECTIONS WHICH HAVE BEEN
CARE OF IN THIS TEXT TILE- THANKS TO SALLY TAYLOR FOR
DATA ENTRY AND CORRECTIONS