The papers of Robert H. Weitbrecht, a physicist and electronic design engineer best known for his invention of TTY, also known
as the teletypewriter, TDD, or Telecommunication Device for the Deaf.
Robert H. Weitbrecht was a physicist and electronic design engineer best known for his invention of TTY, also known as the
teletypewriter, TDD, or Telecommunication Device for the Deaf. Weitbrecht, born deaf in 1920, became interested in amateur
radio as a young man, eventually constructing his own ham radio set at the age of 13. The set allowed him to decipher Morse
code messages received by means of amplified ear phones that produced vibrations that enabled him to distinguish the codes.
By college, Weitbrecht had become licensed as a ham radio operator by the Federal Communications Commission. He was thought
to be the only deaf amateur radio operator in the world in the late 1930s. Weitbrecht attended Santa Ana Junior College from
1938 to 1940 and then enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley. He received his bachelor's degree in Astronomy in
1942. During World War II, Weitbrecht worked at UC Berkeley on Cyclotron Hill at the Radiation Laboratory. After the war,
he moved to the U.S. Naval Air Missile Test Center at Point Mugu, California, where he spent four years developing electronic
timing systems for the missle range instrumentation. It was during these years that Weitbrecht became acquainted with the
Teletype Model 15. In 1950, Weitbrecht obtained his own radio teletypewriter and began experimenting with the machine in his
amateur radio pursuits. In 1951, Weitbrecht moved to Wisconsin to work at Yerkes Observatory and, in his spare time, continued
to develop electronic equipment for radio teletypewriter communication. While in Wisconsin, Weitbrecht obtained a master's
degree from the University of Chicago in Astronomy. In 1957, he moved to Stanford University, where he worked as a physicist
at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in Menlo Park. He remained with SRI for eleven years. It was during this time that Weitbrecht
designed and built cameras and electronic equipment for the Lick Observatory. In 1964, he met some members of the Alexander
Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and, with their encouragement, started determining how to adapt the
teletypwriter into an assistive-listening device for the deaf community by figuring out how to make it work on a regular telephone
line. In 1964, he developed the acoustic coupler that allowed the teletypewriter to be used with a telephone. This coupler
eventually became known as the Weitbrecht’s Modem. Weitbrecht's companies specializing in the distribution of TTYs and other
assistive listening devices included the R.H. Weitbrecht Company, Applied Communications Corporation, and Weitbrecht Communications.
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