Telex still stirs the loins after 30 years

by Mike Evans

As any writer for the internet will tell you, it’s the strangest subjects that attract most attention. My friend Tony Cole, who runs the informative eBookAnoid site for ebook fans, tells me that an article he once wrote about a guinea pig has consistently attracted massive visits.

In the case of MacFilos, it’s the telex machine. Just a year ago we published an article on office life in the 1970s. Buried deep in the text was a reference to telex.

Imagine, then, that every day we get dozens of searches on the word “telex”. What is it that stirs the loins of so many people, often in India or south-east Asia. It’s a mystery to me.

If you are under forty, you probably need an explanation of telex. It was Das Keyboard of its day on an industrial scale. The size of a Smart Car, this electro-mechanical device sat in a corner of any office worth the name.

It had a big telephone-style dial and, once dialled and connected to a compatriot telex in a remote location, caused your typewritten words to appear miraculously at the other end.

Speedsters could record their chatterings on punched tape which could then be run through the machine at breakneck speed in order to minimise connection costs.

Telex messages were all in capitals SO YOU COULD SHOUT YOUR NEWS around the world.

Telex was the epitome of slick communications during the 20th century and right up to the mid-eighties when the fax machine usurped its throne.

In a way, it’s sad to see this behemoth forgotten. Yet there is hope; it seems that in some remote climes the old telex continues to clatter away.

I write this unashamedly in the hope of attracting a few hundred more telex groupies from around the world. If you are still using telex and read this, please write and let me know your experiences.