TDI First International Convention 1974 - Chicago
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From the Paul and Sally Taylor Collection at SMECC





It was just ten years ago this month that a group of deaf people in Salt Lake
City, Utah, were excited and thrilled with a newfound ability to make unassisted
telephone calls. Using early experimental models of the Phonetype developed by
Robert H. Weitbrecht, along with two Model 19 teletypewriters loaned by Mountain
Bell Telephone Company, those present happily typed back and forth to each
other between two rooms in the Hotel Utah.

From this little beginning, and using what equipment could be found, the
system grew slowly over the next three and a half years while the concept was
being perfected. In 1968 the development was given a tremendous boost when
the American Telephone and Telegraph Company agreed to donate, through
several of its operating companies, surplus teletypewriters (TTYs) to deaf people
through the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf, Inc. Also in that
year individuals from the National Association of the Deaf and the Alexander
Graham Bell Association formed Teletypewriters for the Deaf, Inc. (TDI) as a nonprofit
organization. Operating through a group of Authorized Agents (now numbering
over 100) TDI handles the logistics associated with picking up the TTYs from
distributing points, storing and reconditioning them, and finally placing them in the
homes of deaf people. It is also responsible for securing the signed waiver documents
required by AT&T. In 1973 the Western Union Telegraph Company began
the distribution of substantial numbers of machines to deaf people. Other sources
of equipment have been International Telephone and Telegraph Company, RCA
World Communications, government surplus sources and interested individuals.
TDI publishes an International Telephone Directory of the Deaf which will soon
carry 4000 listings, a far cry from its first "directory" in 1968 which was a typed
sheet bearing 174 listings. The current directory lists stations in Canada, England
and the Philippine Islands. It also carries several hundred listings of schools, colleges
and other organizations serving deaf people, including many Vocational
Rehabilitation offices.

The initial development and continuing growth of the TDI system utilized
Phonetypes I and II of the Applied Communications Corporation (later replaced by
models III and IV). 1969 saw the introduction of couplers by ESSCO Communications
and Ivy Electronics. The above devices interface between the telephone and
the teletypewriter which types "hard copy" on paper. TTY models in the system
include Teletype Corporation Models 14, 15 mostly), 19, 26, 28, and 32; Kleinschrnidt,
Creed, Lorenz, Mite; as well as the 100 series of Western Union. In 1972
and 1973 telecommunications terminals utilizing transitory readout were introduced
by the Phonics and HAL Corporations (CRT readout) and by SICO, Inc. (LED readout). 
All of the above mentioned devices utilize the 5-level Baudot code at 60 words per minute, 
a consequence of the characteristics of the surplus teletypewriters available. 

This system appears to more than adequately meet the communication needs of 
deaf people.

TDI was controlled by a Board of Directors of three people from its founding
until 1973 when the bylaws were revised to increase the number to nine, who are
elected by the membership. Officers of TDI are in turn elected by the Board of

In 1969 TDI, as an Indiana not-for-profit corporation received its tax exemption
letter from the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS, in 1971, agreed that the cost of
specialized equipment permitting deaf people to use the telephone is  deductible
as a medical expense. This ruling was later broadened to include costs of service
and upkeep ... In 1973 the agreement between AT&T and A. G. Bell was replaced
by one between AT&T and TDI.

In order to encourage participation TDI has attempted to keep its enrollment
and membership fees as low as possible. This has resulted in a financial loss each
year due to rising costs. Contributions from concerned individuals and corporations
have almost, but not quite made up the difference. Financial solvency has come
from the backlog of a grant made in 1968 by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. In 1973
the Lilly Endowment made a second, but restricted, grant for the purpose of making
loans to agents for the purpose of acquiring teletypewriters and associated equipment,
and for the reproduction of out-of-print service manuals. A service manual
designed especially for deaf people is now in the planning stage-indeed it might
be available at this convention.

In addition to interpersonal communication, the ability of deaf people to use
the telephone has resulted in auxiliary services such as installations of TTYs in
police and fire departments, news and weather services and similar facilities.
In short, the last ten years have resulted in fulfillment of the promise revealed
to those in Utah ten years ago. The ability of deaf people to carry out unaided
telephone communication has resulted in feelings of excitement, independence and
peace of mind which has contributed significantly to their welfare.

H. Latham Breunig



From the Paul and Sally Taylor Collection at SMECC

From the K.P. Corson collection at  SMECC



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