The Death of TDD / TTY Technology

Published: 27th March 2012
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TTY and or TDD technology refers to text telephones and telecommunication devices for the deaf. The TTY TDD Technology provides a system for communication for the deaf and the hard of hearing over phone lines by using a text based phone system. Hearing impaired telephones, implemented in 1960, used this technology to help the deaf. Think of them as the first text message phones before RIM technologies introduced the first Blackberry into the market. People call them TTY, TDD, textphones and/or minicom. Whatever you call them, over 4 million hearing impaired people in the US alone use this technology to communicate.

The TTY unit is a computer that has a keyboard, screen and a modem. The TTY user types their message on the computer wherein the message gets converted into electrical signals. These signals travel through the phone line like a text message travels through the air and bounces off of satellites. Upon reaching the destination, the signals are translated back into letters that appear on the receiving TTY unitís display. This received message will be displayed on the screen or automatically fed to a Braille printer if the end user is both blind deaf. When the message arrives, some TTY units also sync with wristbands which vibrate when a message is received or just simply trigger a flashing light on the unit, like an answering machine would if there was an unread message.

Robert Weitbrecht was the original inventor of the TTY device and a deaf person himself. This was in 1960. In 1964, he invented a device that allowed the TTY device to connect to a telephone. In 1967, 25 TTY stations were formed and it increased to 600 in 1969. Technology advancements made TTY units smaller, readily available, and less expensive. The developers today use digital technology to bring TTY units and computers together. TTY units are analogue. The computers talk to the TTY by the software and voice capable modem.

TTY and TDD technology is facing extinction. Text messaging, email, electronic faxing, and other "text" based communication can be done from any computer using internet access. Today, two deaf people can communicate live to each other by signing in online with the use of a web camera and VOIP technology. Picture phones are available which can send video messages and the vibrating facility on message arrival would make it easy for a deaf person to know when the message has arrived. The arrival of Android's, iPhones, and other smart phones has allowed texting to be done everywhere and to anyone. Even some business correspondences can be done through text message or through live chat interactions on their websites.

The question which still exists is, whether there is still be a place for TTY. People who have used TTY for many years are the ones who are comfortable using it, rather than the newest and latest computer and mobile technology. TTY devices can be used at home for emergencies or as a standby during a power failure. TTY devices rely on battery power and operate over analog telephone lines rather than electricity for power. If you face a power failure, you would still be able to send messages by using a TTY device.

Currently, there is still a place for this technology. If you call your bank, they are not going to be able to answer text messages for you but will certainly have this technology incorporated into their call center software. For businesses that don't have TDD / TTY in place, there exist third party translation services for anyone with a communication impairment where the impaired person will "text" their message using their TDD enabled device and the operator on the other end will speak that message to the party on the other line. Unless every business goes digital and at the very least has live chat on their websites that is managed 100% of the time, this technology is not going anywhere anytime soon.

For more information about telecommunications and discussions about the future of telecom technology, please visit the Answering Service Place. There you will find other interesting topics like call centers & the Hispanic community and how to effectively use remote agents.

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