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Telex Teletype Machine: What It Is And What A Telex Operator Does

Updated on March 1, 2018

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

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 another telex machine via telephone circuits using electrical signals. When you type your information on the keyboard it is typed onto a tape, which is coded. There is the paper in the telex as well for you to keep a backup copy of what you are sending. Once you are finished typing your information you then dial the number on a rotary dialer. When the telex machine that you are transmitting to answers, you then press a button and send your tape through a tape reader. A confirmation of receipt along with a printed copy will be sent to the sending telex machine once the data has been received.

Coded tape that reads Wikipedia
Coded tape that reads Wikipedia | Source

Using The Keyboard

Typing was done on manual keys that had to be pressed fairly hard in order 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 the telex in an enclosed room, as telex machines were very noisy making it annoying for co-workers in and around the same area as you. The machine that I used was in a large room with just patricians. In my particular job I would get all my telexes that needed to be sent typed and ready throughout the day. The last two hours before I was to go home I would send all my telexes.

Mornings after sending the telexes I would first 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 made to go into my files. All messages had to be proof read to make sure everything was correct before delivering the sent messages to each department.

Qualifications At That Time To Be A Telex Operator

  • Type at a minimum of 45 words per minute with minimal error
  • Be organized
  • Be able to handle stress well

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

© 2011 Susan Zutautas


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    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      dahoglund, They are the same thing.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      9 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

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

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      dearabbysmom Thanks for reading and for your comments.

    • dearabbysmom profile image


      9 years ago from Indiana

      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!

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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!

    • Chatkath profile image


      9 years ago from California

      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 profile image

      Genna East 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

      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 profile image

      Merlin Fraser 

      9 years ago from Cotswold Hills

      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.

    • Just Ask Susan profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Zutautas 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      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 profile image


      9 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I remember these monsters.

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

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

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


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