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Dead medium: Popular Science 1932: Naumburg's Visagraph, the Electric Eye Linotype, Ordering Music by Phone

:From (Dan Howland)

Source(s): Popular Science Monthly, June 1932


"FOR the first time blind persons may actually 'see' pictures and read newsprint and typewritten letters, through the medium of their fingertips, with a device that was demonstrated the other day in New York City. Termed the "automatic visagraph" by its inventor, Robert E. Naumburg, it scans a printed page with an electric eye. Black and white outlines of letters and drawings are transformed at high speed into raised and magnified lines, punched by a vibrating needlelike point upon moving sheets of aluminum foil.

"In this device the inventor has radically improved an earlier model demonstrated a year ago, which he called his 'printing visagraph' (((P.S.M., July '31, p. 40))). That machine, resembling an office desk in size and appearance, transformed ordinary bookprint into embossed letters that could be read with the fingers. It was hailed as an amazing development, though the user had to perform rather complicated adjustments in inserting the book, and though smaller type than bookprint was beyond its reach. These handicaps have now been removed.

"So far improved is the new 'automatic visagraph' by a modified scanning system that it will reproduce the type of newspapers, magazines, and virtually anything in print. Even such things as radio diagrams and maps, hitherto inaccessible to a blind person because not even an attendant could read them to him, are now made 'visible.'

"To read a book with the latest model, two of the pages are thrust through a slot, with no effort to straighten the book or align it. The volume is pushed automatically across a transverse slit, beneath which a fast-moving electric eye scans the printed line.

(((Picture captions - punctuation verbatim)))

"This totally blind girl is reading a novel in ordinary bookprint with the aid of the new visagraph in which and electric eye scans the printed page so raised letters appear on aluminum foil beneath the girl's fingertips. Left, radio diagram, typewriting, and handwriting made 'visible' for blind"

(((One wonders how "visible" a blind person using the visagraph to read this issue of Popular Science would find the resulting bas-relief of a halftone of a photograph of a bas-relief of "a radio diagram, typewriting, and handwriting.")))

"This form of visagraph reproduces a map from a newspaper so that it can be "read" by a blind man"

Page 28

"Electric Eye Sets Type Rapidly Without Aid of Human Hands

"HIGH-SPEED typesetting without the intervention of the human hand is forecast by the recent demonstration of an automatic linotype machine. Controlled by an electric eye, it transforms typewritten 'copy' directly into lead type. The only limit to its speed is said by its Charlotte, N.C., inventor to be that of standard linotype machinery.

"Copy for use in the automatic typesetter is written upon a special typewriter which prints a symbol composed of from one to six dots beneath each letter and space. The letters are only for the guidance of writer and editor, for the dot symbols alone actuate the typesetter.

"Each symbol has been chosen to represent a certain letter. When a sheet of this copy is fed into a special carriage that replaces the usual linotype keyboard, an electric eye scans the lines of dots. Each symbol, according to the number and pattern of dots, actuates the proper lever that sends the corresponding letter of type sliding from the type magazine into place. The lines of type are then cast into slugs in the conventional manner."

Page 24


"CUSTOMERS of a British dealer in phonograph records now choose their purchases by telephone. The enterprising merchant fitted a talking machine with an electric pick-up and amplifier, and plays over the selections before a telephone fitted with a hornlike transmitter. The telephone subscriber then places his order for the desired records."


"A MOVIE camera that bobs up and down in the motions of a dance has been introduced for realistic close-ups in ballroom scenes. Cams in the automaton's rubber-tired wheels may be adjusted for a waltz, foxtrot, or tango, and the actress goes through the steps in the robot's wooden arms. It is powered by electric motors."

((("Cambot, give me rocket number nine!" - Joel Robinson)))

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