A Nova Scotian's Contribution to Data Communications Technology

Most people are aware of the impact the personal computer (the PC) has had on the workplace. Printed information is transferred from PC to PC in the form of electronic mail, and every major company has PCS communication through telephone lines and satellites to send and receive information between head office and branch offices, as well as with other companies.

More recently, pictorial, as well as printed information is transmitted almost instantly over facsimile (FAX) machines and data communications links. In both of these systems, words, numbers and pictures are sent over communications links in coded form.

Frederick George Creed

It is doubtful, however, whether many Nova Scotians are aware that one of their native sons is credited with the invention of the system on which modern data communications is based. Frederick George Creed was born in Mill Village, Queens County, Nova Scotia in 1871, and in 1889, at the age of twenty-seven, invented what he called the "High Speed Automatic Printing Telegraph System." Immediately after Creed had demonstrated that his system was indeed a major breakthrough in communications, he established a company in London, England, where he began manufacturing the Creed Printer.

Creed continued to be involved in the technology he had invented by serving on the Board of Directors of ITT.

Nova Scotian Idea......

The idea leading to the invention of the Creed Printer (the teletype) was conceived in Canso, Nova Scotia but realized in Glasgow, Scotland. Frederick Creed had moved from Mill Village to Canso with his family in 1878 and by 1885 was employed by the Western Union Telegraph Company in that town. He learned Morse Code and telegraph and soon formulated the idea that one should be able to interface a typewriter to a telegraphy system to send code, and then to receive the code using the telegraph system and a typewriter in reverse order.

Creed set out to invent a means to convert the alphanumeric characters on the keyboard of the ordinary typewriter so that when any particular key is pressed, the Morse Code representing that particular character is created automatically, and transmitted via the telegraph system. Creed worked on this system during the nine years (1888-1897) he worked for the South American Telegraph Company in Peru and Chile, and in the latter year set up a shop in Glasgow, Scotland, to perfect and complete his invention.

In 1898, he demonstrated that he could transmit the Glasgow Herald newspaper to London via telegraphy at a rate of sixty words per minute. By 1913, his system was being used routinely to transmit London newspapers to other major centres in Great Britain and Europe. Creed Teleprinters were sold to Denmark, Sweden, India, Australia and South Africa, and provided almost instant printed communications between heads of state. In 1923, he demonstrated that his system was also applicable to ship to shore communications, and it therefore became a valuable life saving system for ships in distress.

Frederick Creed died in London in 1957. It is unfortunate that the major contribution he made to the area of data communications technology has not been suitably recognized by either the Nova Scotian or Canadian Governments.

From am article written by Allan Marble, Ph.D., P.Eng., in the Engineering Journal

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