Friday, August 21, 2009

TTY Pioneer

James Marsters has died at the age of 85. Profoundly deaf, Marsters was both an dentist and a licensed pilot who earned a degree in chemistry. But he will best be remembered as one of the men behind the text telephone or TTY. Marsters' mother raised him as if he was fully hearing, so he became an expert lip reader. Rejected by several dental schools because he was deaf, Marsters eventually was accepted to a New York school, making money to finance his education by performing as a magician. He became friends with deaf physicist Robert Weitbrecht and together they come up with the concept for the TTY. Weitbrecht patented the equipment linking teletype machines over telephone lines. They formed Applied Communications in the mid-60's. AT&T orginally tried to stop the development, claiming it damaged the company's equipment. But eventually, the dominant phone company gave way and supported the effort. By the next decade, police and fire departments started installing the technology for emergencies. During the 1980's a variety of TTY machines hit the market, ensuring the deaf would not be left out of the conversation.