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American Annals of the Deaf

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A Phone of Our Own: The Deaf Insurrection Against Ma Bell
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Weitbrecht agreed with Marsters about the potential of extending TTY communication so that other deaf people might use the telephone on a regular basis. He responded to his new friend immediately. “About telephone setups for the deaf using teleprinters. I see no reason why not. I have such a deal setup now operating through my private line telephone. Nothing special about the telephone itself; I merely built an adapter unit that I hook up to the line; it converts teletype signals into tones that go readily through the landline; likewise incoming tones are converted into current pulses to run the teletype machine. . . . In fact I am now working on designs for such ‘phone patch teletype’ towards a simpler and more effective teleprinter system for working over regular telephones—any telephone; not just a special teleprinter line.” Weitbrecht knew that the patch units, directly connected to the telephone lines, were frowned upon by telephone companies because of their desire to restrict connections of private equipment to the phone lines. For this reason, he had used patch units cautiously, hoping that some day the companies would change their policies.

Marsters was convinced that an exciting venture was ahead. Many deaf people would view the TTY as a major breakthrough in their lives. He wrote to Weitbrecht in Redwood City, "Will be glad to be your first customer for a phone-patch teletype.”

Marsters also introduced Andrew Saks to Weitbrecht through one of his April letters: “Andy might be much interested in your radio-ham gear and other gadgets, as well as you as a person.” In May of 1964,Weitbrecht met Saks at another dinner party. Saks and Marsters had been friends since the early 1950s and had shared a common interest in business investments over the years. Although he was indeed interested in the telephone access issue, Saks was very cautious about committing to making an investment. He had recently sued a stockbroker and lost the trial. Marsters had to work on Saks to give the idea of supporting Weitbrecht to do some research and development further consideration.


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