Throughout this article the "Telefon Hirmondó" is translated as "Telephone Herald", which in fact would be the name used eight years later when the service was brought to the United States. Also, so some reason the author dropped the closing "s" in Tivadar Puskás' name.
Chambers's Journal, July 4, 1903, pages 490-492:
A T E L E P H O N E N E W S P A P E R.
By FREDERICK A. TALBOT.
Few institutions have passed through so many vicissitudes and metamorphoses, due to the remarkable developments in science, as the modern daily newspaper. Our purveyor of news from all quarters of the world is in form essentially a production of the day; for, although an institution of several centuries standing, the present daily newspaper no more resembles its prototype of the seventeenth century than the modern thirty thousand horse-power battleship does the ancient galley of the Romans.
The remarkable developments in the newspaper have all been advances with certain specific objects in view, the most important being the publication of events as quickly as possible. Everything is done to lessen the interval between the receipt of information upon the tape-machine and its publication in the paper; but many will contend that there is a finality in this rigorous and strongly contested race against time. A certain period must necessarily elapse between the moment of setting the item of news in type and reeling it off at a rate of thirty thousand copies in an hour upon the gigantic newspaper presses--a speed greater than the eye can follow. It is almost impossible to deny this contention; but will the newspaper always remain in the form now so familiar, and will the news always be printed from type upon paper?
The most convincing reply to this apparently abstruse interrogation is to be found in Budapest. Probably there are few who would be so rash as to aver that the capital of Hungary ranks as one of the most progressive and up-to-date cities in the world; yet this city is setting an important example, inasmuch as one of its intellgencers publishes information of an event while it is actually happening--not as quickly as possible after it has occurred. Such an assertion appears at a cursory view a mere chimera; but nevertheless the Telephone Herald is a concrete reality, and forcibly demonstrates how, in the near future, the news of the day will be disseminated; and its title sufficiently describes how this is achieved--namely, by abandoning the printing press and its thousand and one accessories, and substituting therefor the simple telephone.
Two or three years ago a Hungarian mechanic named Puska came to Budapest with a small instrument--the result of great labor, perseverance, and ingenuity amid many disappointments. This he exhibited, confidently asserting that it would furnish the newspaper of the future; but the preternaturally sage scoffed at his instrument and declared that his emphatic declaration was only the fantasy of a highly fertile and imaginative brain. But Puska was not to be denied in his confidence in the apparatus, and at last he succeeded in having it submitted to a thorough practical test. Then the Telephone Herald was started upon its career, which many predicted would be abort and disastrous; but it did not prove a passing, ephemeral toy. The promoters did not attempt too ambitious a scheme at first. A news-service pure and simple was commenced, and soon emphasised its superiority over the existing newspapers in the rapid distribution of news. Its initial subscribers, who were piqued by that curiosity characteristic of anything widely different from the orthodox, soon realised its invaluable qualities, so far as celerity and reliability were concerned, and its fame rapidly spread not only throughout the city but in the country districts and provincial towns. Subscribers were enrolled with such rapidity that the company experienced a great difficulty in coping with the work of extending the system and enlarging their apparatus. The inventor and his appliance were received everywhere immediately on the practicability and efficiency of the invention being assured; and they were the principal topics of conversation in the streets and clubs and of discussion in the newspapers.
So soon as the new venture was firmly established, Puska was besieged with offers to purchase his invention, and many of them were tempting; but the inventor turned a deaf ear to them all. Even to-day the arrangements of the telephone exchange at the office and the methods of its manipulation are jealously guarded from inspection by any person not directly concerned in the operations.
The economical working of such an enterprise as the Telephone Herald is obvious. There is no printing and type-setting machinery involving the expenditure of many thousands of pounds; the plant simply comprises a telephone wire and receiver at the subscriber's residence, connected with the exchange. The staff is very similar in composition to that of the conventional newspaper office: the editor and his assistants, and the usual supernumeraries for the collection of news. When there is any special item of information to be distributed, all the subscribers are simultaneously rung up and connected with the editorial sanctum, and the editor or an assistant reads over the news into the transmitter on his desk in a clear voice so that his words may be quite audible even to the most distant listener. The items of news, as they are received in the office, are written and subedited in the usual manner, and condensed as much as possible, so that the subscribers may receive the intelligence in the fewest words compatible with sense and lucidity. Even the leaders and editorial comments are transmitted in the same manner.
As the Telephone Herald developed and the number of subscribers increased, a system of organisation for the transmission of the news was carried out. The reports are not transmitted promiscuously as they arrive; for the convenience of the subscribers they are despatched hourly, the first service being at eleven in the morning and the last at three o'clock in the afternoon. In the event of any special news arriving in the intervals, it is immediately communicated to the subscribers. As the service develops, the editions will be elaborated to cope with the exigencies of the subscribers.
The apparatus at the subscriber's residence consists of a telephone-receiver, similar to that of the ordinary telephone, attached to the wall, but yet so small and neat as not to be unnecessarily obtrusive or unsightly. From this depend two long lengths of wire, carrying at their extremities a small disc or trumpet which the subscriber places over his ear. The apparatus is so arranged that the subscriber can lie down or follow some other occupation while he hears the news. Should the information not prove delectable to the auditor, he simply places the trumpet upon the hooks fitted to the receiver.
Notification of the sending of news is transmitted by an alarm-signal, which arrests the attention of the subscriber to the instrument, since it is obvious that he could not be always at the receiver awaiting information. Then, to draw attention to a special communication of news before, between, or after any of the usual hours of transmission, an alarm-signal has been introduced--a sort of trumpet--which is sufficiently loud to be heard distinctly three rooms away. Another valuable improvement in the apparatus is the transportable station, which dispenses with the necessity of the ear-trumpets being fixed in any particular part of the room. By an ingenious contrivance, it is now practicable to remove the ear-trumpets into any room of the house which is properly equipped with installations, and connect them with the system there.
One of the most important developments of the paper is its close association with the Stock Market, to which there is direct communication, so that subscribers are kept in constant touch--as easily and far more quickly than if the prices were transmitted by the ordinary tape-machine--with the fluctuations of the Stock Exchange and the foreign Exchanges; and speculators are kept as well posted up on the condition and aspects of the money market in Wall Street or London as if they were on the spot. The most salient advantage of this direct connection with the Stock Exchange is that it enables a subscriber to deal in stocks on his own initiative and not depend upon the so-called special information of the speculator. This ramification has grown into a very powerful branch, especially in connection with the cereal markets. News is obtained direct from the agricultural districts of the country, so that a subscriber is put into communication with the man on the spot, and can thus obtain a very comprehensive idea of the corn prospects or any other phase of agriculture on which he may desire information.
The subscribers are also brought into close contact with the politics of the day. The Telephone Herald has a special staff of reporters in the galleries of the Austrian and Hungarian Houses of Parliament, who forward their reports half-hourly, so that the subscriber is almost following the transactions. A burning question, an important decision, the result of a petition, or the declaration of a prominent Minister is known to the subscriber within three minutes after it is spoken. Such rapidity is beyond the possibilities of the ordinary daily newspaper.
As with the Stock Exchange and Parliament, so it is with the recreation world. The subscribers are brought into the immediate contact with the race-course, the cycling and automobile track, the football-field, the billiard-table, and other departments of sport. In fact, the sporting news service has been brought to a high standard of efficiency and exclusiveness. Such news hitherto has only been dealt with in the newspaper press in the most perfunctory manner, with no attempt at completeness or accuracy.
This unique newspaper not only fulfils all the requirements of the financier, stockbroker, speculator, politician, and athlete, and provides the general news; it supplies recreation as well. The directors of the concern, when it had once firmly established itself as part and parcel of the Hungarian's existence, conceived the idea of providing concerts for the delectation of subscribers. After prolonged experiments it at last became possible to bring distant listeners into direct connection with a talented orchestra or some universally favourite prima-donna. At the head-offices of the paper is provided a special concert-room, where have gathered nearly all the greatest vocal and instrumental musicians. A music-programme is prepared daily, and given every night after supper. By this means a subscriber reclining in his arm-chair, toasting his feet before his own fire, and sipping his claret can listen in absolute comfort and ease to Sousa's band, Patti's masterful rendering of 'Home, Sweet Home,' or a recitation. Thus the influences of music are brought directly into a private residence. Especially convenient is this arrangement to suburban and provincial subscribers who cannot or do not wish to enter the city at night. Even the juvenile members of a family are catered for. Children's concerts are arranged during the afternoons, and the editors and contributors of the various children's papers, whom the little ones 'have always been anxious to see and speak to,' are brought face to face, or rather mouth to ear, with their little readers, with what delight to the latter can be easily divined.
The same connections are carried out between the subscribers and the theatres. When the idea was first started, special critics were despatched to the theatres, and their comments were related over the telephone; but now the subscribers have become their own critics. Hung between the electric lamps illuminating the theatres are small brass funnels (microphones), by means of which every vocal detail of drama or opera, recitation song, is transmitted to the distant auditor--a system of patronising the theatre far more economical than appearing in person, and far cheaper than an electrophone or theatrephone. For instance, in Paris, the latter instrument--which, by the way, has to be specially connected--costs twelve pounds per annum; but in Budapest, a subscriber can obtain the same amusement by means of the Telephone Herald for ten years at the same cost.
M. Puska's invention also fulfils a direct educational force--the teaching of languages to those who feel disposed to acquaint themselves with other languages than their own. For half-an-hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays lectures are delivered by competent teachers in French and English; and for the same time the alternate days (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays) in Italian or some other tongue. Hundreds of people can thus learn simultaneously. As is well known, it is far easier to learn a foreign tongue by sound, since one can thus acquire the peculiar vocalisation indigenous to the respective languages.
When the Telephone Herald first entered into serious competition with the daily newspapers, and its rivalry was anticipated by them, the press strongly denounced this unique departure from the orthodox, apprehensive that if it did not ruin them, it would at any rate inflict a great deal of harm; but the reverse is just what has happened. Instead of injuring the daily newspaper, it has rather strengthened its position. People cannot afford to spend the whole of the day with their ear at a telephone-receiver or perusing a newspaper from morning till night. What is the result? The telephone delivers in a terse, incisive manner any special item of news; and, if the subscriber's curiosity be aroused therein, he promptly seeks the next day's newspapers for a full report. The Telephone Herald also proves a reliable source of information to provincial papers, which are supplied with news instead of by telegram or incurring the expense of employing reporters in the capital. On the whole, the Hungarian regards the Telephone Herald as an indispensable institution.