Technical World Magazine, April, 1914, pages 262-264:
WITHIN A TICK OF THE NEWS
By C. F. CARTER
BECAUSE the daily newspapers do not come out quite as fast in New York as the New Yorker would have us believe, a most remarkable news bureau has been built up, which furnishes news to all down-town Gotham just about as fast as events happen. There is no time wasted in making carbon copies on typewriters or in having the copy set on the linotype. It is sent over the wire to each news station.
Fifty years ago the word "ticker" was coined in a broker's office somewhere, and to the whole United States that name very quickly meant a device which printed hieroglyphics on a strip of paper, the whole unintelligible to the layman. Today the ticker prints its news on a strip of paper about five inches wide, in language that can be understood. To supplement it, messenger boys from the bureau carry bulletins to give more details on the stories which have been summarized and printed on the ticker.
The organization is a wonderfully large and perfect one. Reliability being the fundamental feature, no statement is sent out without verification. Of equal importance is speed. Once a bit of news is secured, the point is to get it to subscribers with the least possible delay. Two editors are always on duty during business hours on the same principle that some ocean liners carry two captains, so that the bridge may never be without the presence of a commander. At the same big desk sit four expert typists who take news over the telephone from reporters. The Stock Exchange man has his own typist who is not permitted to leave his desk even for a moment without calling someone to take his place. For long-distance messages there are telephone booths equipped with typewriters and a slot through which the typist hands the message, a line or two at a time. From the typewriter, the item goes to the editorial desk where it is summarized and then passed on to the telegraph operator. Instantly the message is on its way to hundreds of receiving instruments in banks, brokers' offices, newspaper offices, hotels, and elsewhere.
The "local staff" for this system of news gathering and news distribution consists of seventy-six reporters, each of whom is a specialist on some one subject. To each of the great railroad systems and each of the leading industrial concerns a man is assigned whose sole duty it is to study that one property and write about it. European news is supplied by a London company, which is the largest news distributing agency in the world, with correspondents all over England and the continent.
For seven hours a day the news ticker spins out a moving picture of important events of the world as they occur. The "Street" always knows when anything happens long before it is generally known, because the "Street" is thickly peppered with tickers.
The new ticker is merely a form of the printing telegraph, which has furnished more contributions to the scrap heap than any other invention. While inventors have tinkered at the printing telegraph for more than fifty years, less than five million dollars worth of such machines are in use in the whole world. Most printing telegraph instruments for long-distance transmission are to be found in Europe. The special form for serving individual patrons is also found chiefly in Europe. In London, especially, the news-ticker service is well developed--financial, sporting, political, and religious items being furnished to various classes who desire special fast service in news reports.
The old service from the Stock Exchange was badly handicapped by a poor receiving instrument, but the machine now in use is a complete regeneration of the old device. Instead of weights and springs for motive power as in the first one, storage batteries that need renewal only once in eight days have been substituted. Instead of crow's foot batteries, a three-horsepower generator at the main office supplies the electric current that keeps the system going. Instead of a paper roll that ran out just before the news item you particularly wanted came along, there is a roll that needs renewal but once in nine days. This paper is specially made for the purpose to insure uniform thickness, and absorbent, so that it will take ink readily. Also, the machine has been speeded up to double its former capacity, and its noise has been suppressed.
The essential mechanical feature of the present news ticker is a type wheel, bearing on its periphery the letters of the alphabet. The wheel revolves in one direction only. The sending machine has a keyboard like a typewriter with a key for each letter connected with tiny electric motor. The pressure of a key stops all the type wheels on all the receiving instruments at the corresponding letter while a bar presses the paper against the type, thus making the impression. When the key is released, the wheel automatically slides along on its shaft one space. At the end of the line, the printing wheel is thrust back to the left side of the page ready to begin a new line, while at the same instant the paper is pulled up one space. The printed lines are five and one-quarter inches long.
The service gives out news to the "Street" where it is most needed, for without an up-to-the-minute knowledge of what the outside world is doing, rumor is much more likely to affect the sensitive market. The newspapers with their hourly editions do not come often enough. The news must come hotter and faster than these possibly can.