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A Phone of Our Own: The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell
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Marsters had also experimented with other ways to try to gain access to the telephone. He tried a portable battery-operated amplifier, a loudspeaker, and a magnetic pick-up coil, which, when held near the earpiece of a telephone receiver, worked well enough to at least let him know that someone was saying “no,” “yes-yes,” or “please repeat” as he talked on the telephone. Marsters wondered if Weitbrecht could help by developing a better telephone device. The fact that Weitbrecht was deaf motivated Marsters to contact him even more. At the time, Marsters and Andrew Saks, a deaf engineer, were searching for ways to inspire deaf youth to consider scientific careers. In April 1964, the deaf orthodontist wrote to Weitbrecht, hoping to recruit him for this endeavor.

Weitbrecht’s ham radio hobby made Marsters curious, too. “I am much interested in getting such a system, if practical, set-up in my own home,” he wrote. “I know it involves getting a radio ham license, etc., but it doesn't faze me.” Marsters proposed a first meeting on Weitbrecht’s birthday, April 11. He also invited Weitbrecht to go with him to Voice Systems, Inc. in Campbell, California, to see a “telephone gadget” the company had developed. Marsters had made many of his own doorbell and alarm clock signalers and was curious about what the company had to offer.

Marsters piloted an airplane from Pasadena to San Francisco to visit Weitbrecht, who welcomed him into his Redwood City home. Within a short time, Weitbrecht showed Marsters his RTTY system. Marsters was intrigued by the amateur radio set-up in Weitbrecht’s cluttered two-bedroom duplex. At the same time, Weitbrecht was fascinated that Marsters had piloted a plane to visit him. The conversation jumped back and forth between radio and flying as their friendship took root.


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