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My Experience as a Telex Teletype Machine Operator in the 70s

Susan worked as a teletype operator in Washington state in the late 70s.

A telex (or teletype) machine

A telex (or teletype) machine

I Worked as a Telex Operator

When I was fresh out of high school, I started my first full-time job as a telex operator at Farmer’s Life Insurance Company on Mercer Island in the beautiful state of Washington. The year was 1976, and at that time, there were many jobs in this field.

What Is a Telex Teletype Machine (and How Does It Work)?

A telex or teletype machine is similar to a typewriter. It is a printer that is connected to a telegraph-type machine that transmits data to other telex machines via telephone circuits using electrical signals.

When you type your information on the keyboard, it is transferred onto a tape, which is coded. There is paper in the telex as well, so you have to keep a backup copy of what you are sending.

Once you are finished typing your information, you dial the number on a rotary dialer. When the telex machine that you are transmitting to answers, you press a button and send your tape through a tape reader. A confirmation of receipt along with a printed copy is sent to your telex machine once the data has been received on the other end.

This coded tape reads "Wikipedia"

This coded tape reads "Wikipedia"

Using the Keyboard

Typing was done on manual keys that had to be pressed fairly hard to perforate the tape. If you happened to make a typo and caught the mistake right away, you could correct it. Catching the mistake later meant that the entire document you were typing had to be retyped.

Many companies had their telex in an enclosed room, as telex machines were very noisy, making it annoying for co-workers in and around the same area as operators. The machine that I used was in a large room with just partitions. In my particular job, I would get all my telexes that needed to be sent typed, and ready throughout the day. In the two hours before I went home, I would send all my telexes.

The following morning, I would check the machine for all printed-out confirmations. Each one was then torn off the machine and matched up to the coded tape that had been sent the previous night along with the original message that each department had given me to send.

A photocopy was then made to go into my files. All messages had to be proofread to make sure everything was correct before delivering the sent messages to each department.

All in all, I found being a telex operator to be a pretty good first job in an office environment.

Qualifications to Be a Telex Operator

  • Typing speed of 45 words per minute (or greater) with few errors.
  • Good organizational skills.
  • Ability to handle stress.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Susan Zutautas


Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on June 22, 2011:

dahoglund, They are the same thing.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on June 22, 2011:

I don't think I am familiar with the machine. I do remember teletypes from the 1950's.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 06, 2011:

dearabbysmom Thanks for reading and for your comments.

dearabbysmom from Indiana on April 02, 2011:

Wow, I forgot all about these, and it's interesting they are still in use. Makes sense that ships would still use them. Very interesting!

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 02, 2011:

Merlin I agree..hold on on a sec my cell phone is ringing :) How did we ever live without all these new gadgets. Thanks for stopping by to read this.

Genna and Chatkath thanks so much!

Kathy from California on April 02, 2011:

Thanks Susan for another very informative Hub - I never knew much at all about Telex Operators or what they did! I am glad that you shared: "Useful"

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on April 02, 2011:

Very interesting! When I look at how far we have come, I am amazed. Still, I wonder how much we actually lose. Up and useful.

Merlin Fraser from Cotswold Hills on April 02, 2011:

Wow you don't look old enough to remember these machines...

Back in the 70's these and the telephone were the fastest forms of communications, and we ran International companies and offshore Oil platforms with nothing more than Ham Radio.

Now the little dears of today can't operate across town without a computer linked to the Internet, Email, smart Phones with a million Aps... and an I Pod to entertain themselves while they wait for someone else to make a decision....

We have bred a Nation of Wimps God help them in a power failure that's all I can say !

Thanks for the walk down memory lane.

Susan Zutautas (author) from Ontario, Canada on April 01, 2011:

Simone thanks for stopping by to read my hub.

Bill We have come along ways. Telex machines are actually still in use today by financial institutions and are on ships.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on April 01, 2011:

I remember these monsters.

It's amazing how far we've come since then.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 01, 2011:

Wow, I had never even HEARD of Telex operators before this! Fascinating.