Replacing a 100 Year old Bond Ticker Tape machine

A major financial organization had a problem. It seems that there was a very minor piece of information that is published in their newspaper on a daily basis and the machine for reading it was ancient. The machine was a ticker tape machine!

They needed a replacement as the old machine was dying and ticker paper was getting harder to find and more expensive.

The bond ticker tape machine had been invented by Thomas Edison and the data transmission technology had been obsilited in the ’70s. The data was transmitted using not ASCII but a 5 bit code called BAUDOT.

It was amazing, but I happened to be in a unique situation to solve their problem.

In college, I had to create a senior project. Having a ham radio background and the technology at the time was moving from teletype (BAUDOT) to ASCII. So I decided that my senior project would be a BAUDOT to ASCII conversion software/hardware project!

Wind forward 10 years and here I am standing in front of a ticker type machine.

After some investigation, I discovered that the ticker was running at (I think) 80 BAUD and used the 5 bit BAUDOT code. I previously had used the company Black Box who made all kinds of wonderful devices for attaching and converting things. A flip through their catalog and I found a “protocol converter”.

this device had an input configuration and an output configuration setting,… different baud rates, start and stop bits etc. There was one problem. The device did not have a setting for 80 Baud, only 75. So I took a chance.

Next I wrote a simple VB program to wake up for 10 minutes around noon and then again 4 when the data needs to be read from the ticker. The code initialized the serial port, read the data and printed/stored it into a database.

It turned out the 75/80 baud thing was never a problem. It was close enough (and slow enough).