©2004-2023 F. Dörenberg, unless stated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be used without permission from the author.

Latest page update: February 2023 (added ref. 75B).

Previous updates: Agust 2022 (added ref. 278A-278E, 286 and associated text in the "British propaganda" section; inserted Fig. 5, added Fig. 48B, 48C, ref. 285); 10 April 2022 (added Fig. 57, ref. 196); 8 March 2022 (added ref. 195, inserted Figures 18A, 18B, 19A, 19B, and text); September-October 2021 (added ref. 271, 274, 275); 4 May 2021 (added ref. 272 and text), September 2020 (added Tempf12b photos and started Tempf12c section, added Fig. 48, ref. 132B); 9 June 2020 (added ref. 194A/B and text), December 2019 (expanded "Kriegsmarine" section with submarines, added ref. 258A-258C), 21 October 2019 (uploaded ref. 49), September 2019 (added ref. 190, 191, 192, 193, and expanded associated text, figures).

Note: radio receivers that were used with Presse-Hell printers are discussed on this page.

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Rudolf Hell invented and developed the Hellschreiber with the objective of creating a very simple teleprinter system for use by news agencies via wireless communication (Rudolf Hell, ref. 1):

"Das Entwicklungsziel, ein für Presseempfang brauchbares Gerät zu schaffen, konnte nur mit einem denkbar einfachen Schreibgerät erreicht werden."

"Die Entwicklung des Hell-Schreibers erfolgte speziell im Hinblick auf die drahtlose Übertragungstechnik"

"The objective of the development was a practical device for the reception of messages from news agencies. This could only be achieved with a very simple teleprinter."

"The development of the Hell-printer was specifically done for wireless communication."

This particular form of Hellschreiber is generally referred to as "Presse Hell", "Presse" being the German word for press news media.

Indeed, "Presse Hell" revolutionized the telecommunication of news agencies world-wide (and, by the way, news paper and magazine printing as well). This was basically unequalled until the next revolution some forty years later: the introduction of computer-supported telecommunication. Hellschreiber "Schreibfunk" (or "Presseschreibfunk") competed with Morse code telegraphy, start-stop teletype/teleprinters (typically with 5-bit character encoding), and "Pressefunk" (also referred to as "Presse-Sprechfunk", is "spoken voice" radio-transmission of news messages). "Presse Hell" went into service with news agencies and news media in 1932.

The Hellschreiber system had a number of compelling advantages over the prevailing competition (in particular Morse telegraphy):

  • No need for Morse telegraphy stenographers, who had to be trained (ref. 119), could make copy mistakes, and had to be paid a salary.
  • No highly trained staff was required to operate and supervise running of the system - a typist/transcriber could do the job, at half the salary of a Morse operator (ref. 33D). Also, reception could be unattended for hours of continuous printing, other than for occasional exchange of the paper roll (e.g., 10 thousand words = 50 thousand characters, ref. 163B).
  • The Hellschreiber produced a printed copy of received messages (not traces on a Morse undulator-recorder), enabling a more objective check of reception of the printed material.
  • Compared to Sprechfunk, again, stenographers were no longer needed. Like their Morse counterparts, they could make hearing mistakes, and multiple words or entire sentences in a message could be lost due to atmospheric and other interference (ref. 3).
  • Also, Morse and Sprechfunk required fixed transmission schedules. However, the Hellschreiber system was suitable for unattended operation (printer models equipped for remote on/off control signaling), and minimized delays between the occurrence of news events, and their reporting.
  • The Hell system had a 50% higher transfer rate than Sprechfunk and Morse (ref. 2, 4 , 5, 33D). This made transmission schedules more flexible, which reduced staffing in the field. At the same time, transmission time ( = cost) was cut in half. E.g., for the London Press Service, this represented about 10% of the annual operating budget of the entire service (ref. 160A, 160D, 163B, 167).
  • Hell-equipment, esp. printers, were significantly less expensive than conventional teletype/teleprinter equipment, by about a factor of 2-3. The Hell printers did not require a high standard of maintenance and skilled mechanics.
  • In the 1930s, conventional teletype/teleprinter systems used expensive dedicated teleprinter lines, networks, and switchboards. So they were basically limited to point-to-point communication. Hellschreiber could be used for wireless broadcasts, with world-wide coverage (VLF/LF/HF), thereby bypassing the wired teleprinter networks. This too gave Hellschreiber a very significant cost advantage (ref. 2). Note that conventional teleprinters were not very usable on long distance radio links: they transmit each character as a 5-bit code with a start bit, and distortion of any bit causes a wrong chracter to be printed, or no character. Such distortion is easily caused by radio propagation effects (fading, atmospheric noise, multi-path "echoes", etc.) and man-made interference. Teleprinter via radio broadcast became popular and dominant after WW2, for several reasons:
  • Large numbers of (primarily US) surplus military teleprinters were dumped on the market.
  • New radio modulation schemes (in particlar Frequency Shift Keying, FSK, ref. 183B) improved the signal-to-noise ratio, making teleprinter-via-radio sufficiently dependable.
  • Both Hell and teleprinter provide hard copy of the received messages, but teleprinters could produce several carbon-copies at once. Standard teleprinters were slightly faster than the Hell-system. Ref. 160A.
  • Conventional teleprinters printed on page-wide rolls of paper, and did not require manual glueing of sections of paper tape onto a telegram form. Hell did develop a "Blattschreiber" page printer, which entered the market around 1949.

Fig. 1: print-outs of April 1938 long-distance Hellschreiber tests

(50 kW transmitter station DL0 at Rehmate (near Berlin) and receiver at Santiago de Chile; source: ref. 183A)

In 1947/48, London Press Service (LPS) assessed the Hellschreiber system for worldwide broadcast, and concluded (ref. 157):

Under normal conditions Hellschreiber is accurate, speedy and cheap. It serves as an ideal means of transmission for the material produced by news agencies and kindred bodies such as the London Press Service… The speed of Hellschreiber is more than twice that of Morse now used on the London Press Service and reduces the transmitting charges by about 50%... For the cost of one transmission, the material can be received at great distances by an unlimited number of people. The running expenses are small and the system is rapidly growing in popularity”.


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The Wolff'sche Telegraphische Büro (WTB, ref. 42) was Germany's oldest news agency, founded in 1849. It tested the Hellschreiber in 1931. In 1932, it was the first agency to put the Hellschreiber into service: between its head office in Berlin, and its branch offices (ref. 6). In December of 1933, WTB and the Telegraphen-Union (TU, ref. 7) news agency were nationalized and merged into the Deutsches Nachrichtenbüro (DNB). DNB was the official news agency of national-socialist Germany (ref. 8). By 1934, the "Presse Hell" was considered mature enough to be tested and evaluated by DNB on the wireless links to their foreign offices (see pp. 239, 241 in ref. 9C, ref. 10). It entered into service on August 1 of that same year (ref. 3, 4). By 1935, all DNB offices abroad had a "Presse Hell" printer for receiving messages from the head-office in Berlin; possibly the domestic offices as well (ref. 2). From March 1940 on, DNB had the exclusive right to sell the Siemens-Halske "Presse Hell" machines. Per ref. 9C (p. 239), the 1940 price charged by DNB for such a printer was 875 Reichsmark (about 2-3 months wages of a male white-collar worker). Note that a Siemens-Halske publication from 1937 (ref. 11) quotes a price of 1257 Reichsmark... General pricing information about Hellschreiber equipment is provided on this page. In 1938, DNB offered a matching radio receiver, the E38, at 470 Reichsmark (ref. 10). Eventually, over 700 German newspapers subscribed to DNB's Hell-Funk "Hellcast" service (ref. 18, 19, 154). Broadcasting was primarily done on long-wave frequencies, to get continental coverage (ref. 12).

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Figure 2: Fragment of a DNB Hellcast

(source: ref. 10)

The Transocean G.m.b.H (TO) was a German press agency founded in 1915 for the purpose of providing news from and about Germany to journalists abroad. TO may have evaluated the Hellschreiber system as early as 1932 (ref. 13). Rudolf Hell himself stated that both TO and DNB tested early models in 1934 (page 4 in ref. 1). By 1939, TO had at least 19 offices outside Germany (p. 263 in ref. 17C, ref. 118). It was the world's first news agency with wireless broadcast. TO initially used the high-power LF/VLF transmitter facilities at Großfunkstation Nauen (ref. 14), about 35 km west of Berlin. In 1935/36 they changed over to the Rehmate facilities near Oranienburg (about 30 km north of Berlin). The latter facilities comprised several 10-100 kW transmitters and a large antenna "farm". TO had Hellcasts of up to 18 hours a day from Rehmate, primarily to South-America, Africa, and the Dutch East-Indies (see §10 in ref. 1).

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Figure 3A: Map of the wireless Hellschreiber-network of the German DNB press agency ca. 1939

(source: ref. 12, 17C, 119; note that the intra-German network was still fully wired at that time)

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Figure 3B: Overseas DNB offices - 1938/39 - covered by Hellcasts from DNB/Berlin

(source: ref. 17C)

By April of 1939, 27 foreign press agencies subscribed to the DNB Hellcasts (ref. 15, 187). From 1939 to 1945, TO, DNB, and EP (Europapress) were controlled and financed by the German propaganda ministry ("Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda"). Obviously, German embassies, incl. the one in Washington DC/USA, were equipped with Hellschreiber (ref. 16, 1940). In 1938, during the Spanish Civil War, Germany had a special staff in San Sebastián to support General Franco's Falange. The staff's office was equipped with Hellschreiber printers for the DNB service, as well as shortwave receivers and transmitters (ref. 115). During 1942, TO broadcast Morse and Hellschreiber messages in German, French, English, and Spanish, for a combined 72 hours a day, and an average 85000 words a day (ref. 17). Germany stepped up its international propaganda effort in 1942, at which time the Propagandaministerium made two additional transmitters available to the DNB. Starting in 1942, the "Hell Presse-Schreibfunk" [ = teleprinter news broadcast] began to gradually replace the "Presse-Sprechfunk" [ = voice news broadcast, typically spoken at dictation speed]. By the time the Pressefunk was terminated (February 1944, ref. 3, p. 240 in ref. 9C), over 700 of the 980 German newspapers were equipped with a "Presse Hell" printer, and connected to the Hellschreiber-broadcasts of the DNB (ref. 18, 19).

Note that DNB provided an advance service to the German press: the broadcast before they were published in printed press (esp. daily newspapers) and re-broadcast via state-controlled radio. DNB also broadcast "Wehrmachtberichte". These were daily mass-media communiqués of the Wehrmacht High Command (OKW), prepared by the OKW propaganda dept. They were broadcast via the DNB, hours before they appeared in, e.g., German radio announcements. This made the DNB an important source of news to the British government, via the BBC Monitoring Service. Ref. 286.

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Fig. 4: "The girl at the Hellschreiber" - cartoon in the Litzmannstädter Zeitung newspaper (1943)

(source: ref. 20, Litzmannstadt in former Germany's Eastern Prussia, now Łódź in Poland)

Note that the "Presse Hell" system was not only used by news organizations. It was, e.g., also used via shortwave radio by the Reichsbahn (the state railway system in Germany), in particular with their counterparts in Romania and Hungary (ref. 179). The Hungarian railway system also used the Hell system via longwave radio (1940-1957, ref. 21; also see this page).

During the war, Presse-Hell printers were also made available to large ethnic German communities outside Germany ("größere reichsdeutsche Gruppen", ref. 53). The German national police also made extensive use of Hellschreiber (ref. 54), as did German embassies and consulates. E.g., those in Zürich/Switzerland (ref. 55), and Washington DC/USA (ref. 16) were equipped with Hellschreibers. During WW2, King Boris of Bulgaria and King Mihai of Romania used German-controlled Hellschreibers to secretly print Hellcasts from Reuters/London (ref. 150).


There are statements in the media, literature and internet - perpetuated to this day - claiming that at the beginning of World War 2, British intelligence services stumbled upon the "strange" Hellschreiber signals, and cleverly managed to reverse-engineer a printer so that they could read the signals. This is all pure and total British propaganda nonsense. Of course, it may very well be true that the UK "intelligence" services were fully unaware of the existence of Hellschreibers. For example, the radio intercept station of the British Foreign Office observed "non-Morse" transmissions during the second half of 1940 and early 1941, "at which point in time, no special apparatus existed to directly print any of these transmissions". Mid-1941, an RAF VHF station intercepted an "unknown type of communication" from across the Channel, which turned out to be Hellschreiber. Ref. 165.

However, Hellschreiber printers had already been used in Britain for many years, so a number of private and government organizations were familiar with Hell-signals. E.g.:

  • The London Metropolitan Police evaluated a Siemens-Halske Hellschreiber (model T.empf.12A) in 1935, and concluded "There appear to be definite possibilities for Police work in apparatus of this nature" (ref. 28).
  • The London-based Reuters news agency had prepared the introduction of Hellcasts with the General Post Office (GPO; i.e., the British government) since 1933. In 1935, an experimental supplementary Hellcast service to Europe was started via the GPO 43.2 kHz longwave transmitter at Leafield (ref. 75A, 75B). Reuters and all of its customers (in the UK and around the world) had German Hellschreiber printers.
  • Given the Post Office's monopoly, Reuters did not own radio transmitters but leased time on Post Office transmitters, in particular at Leafield and Rugby (ref. 22, 23, 26). The Post Office Engineering Dept. performed reception tests for Reuters European Hell service in 1936 and 1939, and investigated effects of noise and propagation fading on Hell transmissions in 1944. Ref. 172A-172F.
  • The London offices of other news agencies (e.g. AP, ref. 24, 25), subscribed to Hellschreiber services from Reuters and other news agencies. Hence, they had Hellschreiber printers - probably licensed by the General Post Office (who had full telecommunications monopoly).
  • The Marconi company already negotiated Hellschreiber patent licenses in 1935 with Siemens & Halske via Telefunken Gesellschaft für drahtlose Telegraphie m.b.H. ("Telefunken" for short). Ref. 169. Siemens was 50% owner of Telefunken, until bought out by joint-venture partner Allgemeine Elektricitäts Gesellschaft (AEG) in 1941. Marconi and Telefunken had general "exclusive territory" agreements.
  • Hellschreibers were also used at certain British airports (e.g., at Croydon, as early as 1937, ref. 27), probably for weather reporting services.
  • Around 1938/39, the Cable & Wireless Ltd. company in the UK (probably through its Communications Division of Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company Ltd.) performed Hellschreiber transmission/reception experiments and signal bandwidth measurements (ref. 166).
  • During 1940, the Research Branch of the Engineering Department of the General Post Office (GPO) at Dollis Hill, north London, constructed a "Hell type helix printer". The results were "as good as normally obtained with the standard Siemens Hell printer". Starting in 1940, the GPO also developed a "modified form of the Siemens Hell-Schreiber equipment", with electro-chemical printing. The resulting portable printer/keyboard-sender entered into British Army service, and was referred to as the "Telewriter". Ref. 278A-278E (1940-1944 GPO War Diaries).

Also, the British telegraph/teleprinter technical community was fully aware of the Hellschreiber and its principles (e.g., ref. 29, 30). Moreover, British government representatives approved Hellschreiber-telegraphy at the International Radiocommunications Conference held in Cairo in 1938, for use of frequencies reserved for A1-modulated telegraphy (ref. 31A-31C). Furthermore, the Wireless Committee of the International Criminal Organization (INTERPOL, founded in 1923) adopted Hell-Schreiber for international police communications (via longwave radio, 83.4 kHz), at their annual meeting in 1935 (ref. 32, 175). Also, during 1938/39, the British High Commissioner for Palestine (which was under direct British rule from 1917 to 1948), negotiated a license with the German and Italian Consuls-General for the installation of Hellschreiber equipment in their consulates (ref. 33A, 33B, 34A, 34B).

Yes, one or more Presse Hell printers were surely abandoned by German DNB "agents", who left Britain in a hurry when the war broke out. Their machines were neither secret nor otherwise particularly valuable or of strategic importance. Hellschreiber technology was definitely not secret (contrary to claims in some British reports, e.g., ref. 35, 36). Hellschreiber signals as such, absolutely do not have some "secret" form of encoding: a very simple no-brains printer can print the signals as perfectly legible text. Also, the signals are not at all encrypted - though, of course, messages sent in Hellschreiber format may have been encrypted (and sometimes were - but never for news broadcasts, as that would obviously defeat their purpose).

Military Feld-Hellschreibers used by the code-breakers at Bletchley Park (BP), included captured German units. BP also obtained Hellschreibers from the US (configurable for both 7-line and older 12-line Hell-fonts; ref. 114. Possibly Teletype model 17). Martin Esslin was a so-called "roving monitor" at BBC Monitoring Service (BBCMS), whose operation started late summer of 1939 (ref. 36, 37, 38, 39, 116, 174, 274; he was Head of BBC Radio Drama dept. in the 1960s and 70s). Mid-1940, he "discovered" DNB voice broadcasts ("Presse-Sprechfunk", including communiqués from the German High Command) in the LF frequency band. He caught the announcement that the voice broadcast service was about to switch over to Hellschreiber format. The BBCMS added a special Hellschreiber-section to its M-unit: the H-unit (to be confirmed). This is where Stanley Cook (G5XB) worked. It started coverage of the DNB Hell-broadcasts on 23 October of 1941, at its listening post in Evesham/Worcestershire (ref. 40, 43, 275). Reception of strong signals (voice, Morse, Hellschreiber, teletype) was primarily done Caversham Park in Reading/Berkshire (due to local interference noise levels and lack of space for large antenna installations), whereas Crowsley Park (located about 5 km north of Caversham) concentrated on weak, long-distance signals (ref. 44, 45, 177). BBCMS also intercepted shortwave Hell-messages of the Reichsbahn (German national railways), ref. 46, 120. The recorded and translated "open source intelligence" (OSINT, using data obtained from publicly available sources) was exchanged with monitoring services in the USA (ref. 47). The monitoring and transcription of German Hellcasts at BBCMS was terminated in July of 1945 (ref. 48). However, post-war, the BBCMS monitored world-wide Hellcasts at least into the 1950s (ref. 191).

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Fig. 5: War-time Hellschreiber monitoring at the BBC Monitoring Service

(source: ref. 37)

General ignorance in British intelligence circles persisted after the war: "The Hell system of teleprinting was apparently well known before the war, being used throughout Germany for Press communications and also in America. A small portable model was developed for the Wehrmacht" (ref. 170, September 1945).


Some ships of the Kriegsmarine (the German navy, 1935-45) also carried a Presse-Hell printer on board. E.g., the "Prinz Eugen" (a heavy cruiser of the Hipper Class) had one in the Gefechtsnachrichtenzentrale (GNZ, battle communications room, i.e., not in one of the ship's three radio rooms!), ref. 49. It was used in combination with a Lorenz Lo6L39 long-wave receiver.

The signal intelligence service of the Kriegsmarine also had Presse-Hell printers (as well as Feld-Hell machines), e.g., at the monitoring and D/F station ("Marine Peil Haupt Stelle", MHPS) near Neumünster, 35 km south of Kiel, in the far north of Germany (ref. 50). Note that the OKW/Chi (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht / Chiffrierabteilung = Cypher/Crypto Dept. of the Supreme Command Armed Forces) had two distinct intercept systems, one of which concentrated on monitoring of "in clear" (not encrypted) foreign broadcasts, principally news broadcasts, and correspondents' report of news agencies such as Reuters and Dōmei Tsūshinsha (Federal Japanese News Agency, predecessor of Kyodo News Agency). This intercept system had its main station at Ludwigsfelde (≈38 km, 23 miles south of Berlin), and branch stations at Königsberg, Gleiwitz, Münster, and Husum; ref. 51. Section 2 of Group I of the German OKH/GdNA (Oberkommando des Heeres - Army High Command / General der Nachrichtenaufklärung - Signal Intelligence (SigInt, cypher/crypto) Agency) had a sub/section for monitoring of clear text (not encrypted) Helldienst broadcasts of foreign press agencies. Ref. 52

The Kriegsmarine also used a number of LF and VLF transmitters in Germany, France, The Netherlands, and Poland, to communicate with its submarines. Most impressive was the 1 megawatt transmitter station, aptly named "Goliath". It was used to broadcast command and guidance instructions to submerged U-boats around the globe, both in Morse and Hellschreiber format. It is not 100% certain whether submarines that did have a Hell-printer, were equipped with a compact Presse-Hell printer, or a military Feld-Hell printer/sender. Clearly, for broadcast reception, only the printer function was required. Obviously, the broadcasts to submerged subs were uni-directionally, as they did not have an equivalent transmitter station on board.

Towards the end of the war, submarine "Type XXVIIB5" (a.k.a., "Type 127" and "Seehund" ) was also equipped with a Hell-printer. This was a 2-person midget submarine ("Kleinst-U-Boot") with a length of 12 m (≈39 ft), for depths up to 45 m (≈150 ft). It entered operational service on 31 December of 1944 but had no significant military impact. Ref. 258A suggests that it had an integrated longwave-receiver/Hell-printer that worked "satisfactorily". It had a dedicated antenna, as did the Luftwaffe FuG 29 / E29 "LW/KW-Reportageempfangsgerät" receiver, that was also installed in the "Seehund". The latter receiver had 6 adjustable channels in the 150 kHz - 6 MHz frequency range (not low enough for under water reception), but does not appear to have ever been produced in series. Ref. 258B-258C.


During 1945 bombing raids on Berlin, DNB Hellcasts were sometimes interrupted (ref. 57). The activities of the DNB ended on May 2, 1945 (ref. 3). The Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) of the US/British Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF), put plans in place by the end of 1944, to use Hellschreiber for propaganda broadcasts. Ref. 58. This was primarily so-called "white" propaganda: tactical psychological warfare, with clear indication of the source. Fake Presse Hell newscasts were made via "Radio 1212", using the Radio Luxemburg transmitter with reduced power and re-tuned to a wavelength of 1212 m / 248 kHz (ref. 272). The Political Intelligence Department (PID) of the British Foreign Office started test-Hellcasts early June 1945, and regular Hellcast news service for the Joint Allied Press Services (APS) by mid June.

On 29 June 1945, the German News Service (GNS) started its operation in the US-controlled zone of occupied Germany. On 5 September 1945, GNS was changed to Deutsche Allgemeine Nachrichtenagentur (DANA; General German Press Agency; ref. 59, 60), headquartered in Bad Nauheim, some 30 km north of Frankfurt. Initially, DANA operated under the direction of Brigadier General Robert A. McClure. On 26 October 1946, DANA was handed over to a German association ("Genossenschaft") of 41 newspaper publishers (see list on p. 12/13 in ref. 190), with a license to operate as a news agency in the American occupation zone, the American sector of Berlin, and the American enclave of Bremen. Ref. 61. On 1 January 1947, the name was changed to Deutsche Nachrichtenagentur (DENA).

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Figure 6: DENA inventory label on a T empf 14 "Presse Hell" printer

(source: eBay)

Initially, DANA used a mobile 20 kW long-wave transmitter "P" (Paul/Paula) of the Wehrmacht. DANA Hellschreiber transmissions started on September 6, 1945 (see p. 272 & 281 in ref. 17C, ref. 62, ref. 153). The transmitter burned down in November of 1946, because of a short circuit. Hellschreiber transmissions were interrupted for several days, until replacement transmitters were brought on line. In July of 1947, DENA started using a new, 30 kW transmitter installation near Frankfurt/Main (in the area called the Seckbacher Streuobstwiesen "Am Heiligenstock" at Bad Vilbel); ref. 63, p.284 in ref. 17. With support from the US military government, DENA successfully opposed efforts by the Deutsche Post (the German national PTT) to take over all Hellschreiber communication systems (as part of their claim to the monopoly in all matters of broadcast, ref. 64) - as this could have implied German government influence on the press (ref. 61). DPA used domestic Hellcasts from 1949 until March of 1956 (long wave), at which time it switched over to telex teleprinters (ref. 65); DPA's international newscasts did not switch over until 1961 (ref. 6).

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Fig. 7: The 60 meters tall antenna mast, 12000 volt rectifiers and final-stage tubes (valves) of the 20 kW transmitter at Bad Vilbel

(source: ref. 190)

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Fig. 8: T.empf.14 "Presse Hell" printer at DANA with E38 receiver - printed tape is transcribed with a typewriter

(source: Bundesarchiv, "Ein Jahr DANA", in "Welt im Film" of 18-Sept-1946, 1min30-1min40 into the clip)

Equivalent to GNS in the US-occupied zone, was the Sowjetisches Nachrichtenbüro (SNB) in the Soviet-occupied zone. It started 18 July 1945. It was transformed into the Allgemeine Deutsche Nachrichtendienst (ADN) in October of 1946. Similar agencies were founded in the French-zone (Rheinische Nachrichtenagentur RHEINA, which became Süddeutsche Nachrichtenagentur SUEDENA, until 1949) and the British-occupied Zone (GNS-BZ). The latter was headed up by Editor-in-Chief Sefton Delmer. During the war, he managed British black propaganda radio broadcasts and radio stations (e.g., "Soldatensender Calais", "Deutsche Kurzwellensender Atlantik", primarily directed at the German armed forces; ref. 66). Initially, Delmer did not want the new German press agency to use Hellschreiber, though DNB equipment was readily available. GNS-BZ was transformed into the Deutscher Presse-Dienst (DPD) in 1947.

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Fig. 9: Row of T.empf.14 "Presse Hell" printers and LN21021 receivers in Hellschreiber-room of the DPD in Hamburg - 1948

(source: ref. 65 and ref. 67)

DPD used Hellschreiber over wireless channels, and regular teleprinters for its wired services. DPD used British military wired telecom network, until DPD got its own teleprinter network in April of 1946. DPD used Hellschreiber at least until well into 1947. In August of 1945, Hellschreiber trials between Germany and London were conducted in the British Zone, with two 20 kW shortwave transmitters at the site of "Norddeich Radio". From 1905 through 1998, this was a maritime coastal radio station on the North Sea shore in the far northwest of Germany (ref. 68). After these 1945 trials, the transmitters were moved to Hamburg, for news broadcasts (including Hell-Funk, ref. 6) to London and newspapers in the British-occupied zone.

DPA (Deutsche Presse-Agentur) was founded 18 August 1949 by merging DPD and DENA. Ref. 65, 69, 152. DPA used Hellschreibers (ref. 70) for its wireless services. Their Hellcasts were done via the DENA 60 kW longwave (110 kHz) transmitter at "Heiligenstock" (near Frankfurt): 19 hours/day = 25-30 thousand words/day.

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Figure 10: Part of the first DPA press release - a Hellcast at 06:00 o'clock on September 1st, 1949

(source: p. 18 in ref. 65)

Newspapers such as the Telegraf in Berlin subscribed to Hellcasts from DANA, DENA, as well as DPD, in addition to teletype services from other German and international agencies (ref. 71). Presse-Hell was also used by many magazine and newspaper publishing companies, e.g., "Südost-Echo" in Austria (1939-1945, ref. 72), "Fränkische Presse" newspaper of Verlagshaus Steeger (Hellschreiber used 1946-1955, ref. 51). When the Deutscher Sportverlag (DSV, German Sports Publishing Co.) resumed its operation after the war, it also used Hellschreiber. An associated betting office in Frankfurt/Main is known to have used them at least until 1982 (based on 1981 maintenance records of the machines, and ref. 73), to receive dog and horse racing results from the UK and elsewhere. The post-war Sport-Informations-Dienst (SID) operated a Helslchreiber network until it switched over to regular teleprinters in 1952.

ADN also used Hellcasts (ref. 70), primarily to other socialist news agencies (ref. 181). Hellcasts were on shortwave in German and Russian, and in parallel on long wave in German, in total 16 hours a day. The transmitters were located on the north side of the village of Weesow (about 25 km northwest of down-town Berlin). During 1959/1960, they transitioned from the Hell system to conventional teleprinters. Ref. 181.


As described above, DNB was the world's first news agency to use the Hell system.

Foreign ( = non-German) press agencies also had a "Presse Hell" printer, e.g., the Berlin office of United Press Associations (UP) in 1939 (ref. 74).

Reuters started its own Hellschreiber broadcast service to Europe (i.e., "the continent") in 1935 (ref. 75, 76; 1934 per ref. 77), after evaluation testing in 1934. Initial service was via the General Post Office's VLF transmitter (43.2 kHz) at Leafield (about 100 km northwest of London), later (1939) around 7 and 11 MHz. The Hell-sender was located at Reuters' offices in London. When Hellschreiber equipment was no longer available from Germany, Reuters used other suppliers to build Hellschreibers (ref. 75, 78, 79). This was primarily by subcontractors to the British GPO (see here), but also the Italian company FIApT in Milan (not to be confused with the automobile manufacturer FIAT from Turin). In 1954, Reuters entered into an agreement with Tass News Agency whereby Reuters obtained exclusive copyrights in the United Kingdom to the TASS Russian and English Hellschreiber services, for the annual sum of 10 thousand pound sterling (equivalent to ≈£266 thousand in 2018 ≈€300k ≈US$345k, based on general inflation rates). Reuters would be willing to share these rights (e.g., with the BBC), for a compensation (ref. 182).

Starting 1939/40, some of the broadcasts of Italy's first press agency, Agenzia Stefani (founded 1853), were in Hellschreiber format (in Italian, English, and French). Around the same time, the Spanish press (ref. 80) and the French news agency Havas also started using the Hell system. In 1938, Havas sent an engineer to Siemens in Berlin, "to improve the system" (ref. 81), though there is no evidence of any contributions he may have made.

In 1940, the Reuters and Havas agencies cancelled their contracts with DNB, followed in 1941 by Associated Press (and UP (see p. 242 in ref. 17C). UP maintained several listening posts worldwide during and after the war, capable of printing Hell-casts (e.g., at Valhalla/NY and San Francisco/CA; ref. 47). AP also used Reuter's listening post at Barnet/England (ref. 82, 83).

Here is an overview of non-German news agencies around the world that provided and/or used Hellcasts (ref. 84, status of 1952/1953):

  • AA (Anadolu Ajansi (D: Agentur Anatolien, Agentolie); Turkey): subscribed to Hellcasts from Reuters/London, for which it had four Hellschreiber printers. (p. 99 in ref. 84); they also subscribed to DNB Hellcast services (ref. 85).
  • AA (Agencia Avalla; Yugoslavia, absorbed into Tanjug in 1943): used Hell-printers starting in 1937.
  • AAP (Australian Associated Press); Hellschreiber printers (though it was formally forbidden in Australia at the time for non-government entities to own telecom equipment!) to receive AAP service from London.
  • AF (Agencia Fabra; Spain; dissolved in 1938): used Hellschreiber printers since 1934 for HAVAS Hellcasts.
  • AFP (Agence France Presse; partly continued as HAVAS in 1940, reemerged as AFP in September of 1944): received Hellcasts from other agencies; had conventional teleprinter link to Frankfurt, and Hellcasts from there (via DENA transmitter) to German customers 30k words/day.
  • AGERPRESS (established 1949; Romanian News Agency; frmr. Agentie de Informatii Telegrafice (AIT, see below); own Hellcasts (ref. 155); starting 1950, Hellcast reception limited to TASS.
  • AIT (Agentie de Informatii Telegrafice RADOR ("Radio Orient"); Romania): received Hellcasts.
  • ANA (Athens News Agency): received Hellcasts.
  • ANETA (Algemeen Nieuws- en Telegraaf-Agentschap ("General News and Telegraph Agency"); The Netherlands). The ANETA office in New York also used Siemens printers (ref. 86). Also see P.I.-Aneta below.
  • ANP (Algemeen Nederlandsch Persbureau; The Netherlands, established December 1934):
  • Received Hellcasts from NTB, DPA, TASS; had its own Hellcasts to Indonesia (incl. PIA in Jakarta), and Surinam. Also see ref. 171b-171e.
  • The first successful Hellcast trials between ANP in The Netherlands and ANP in Batavia (Jakarta/Indonesia) took place early March of 1939 (ref. 171a, p. 6 in ref. 194A):
    Presse Hell ANP NL Batavia

    Fig. 11: Print-out of a Hell massage received by ANP in The Netherlands via shortwave from ANP in Jakarta/Indonesia

  • The transmission/reception station in the Netherlands was "Holland Radio" (a.k.a. "Radio Kootwijk") at Kootwijk, ca. 85 km southeast of down-town Amsterdam. It had multiple transmitter and antenna systems, ref. 194A-194E. Additional Hell test transmisisons were done in November of that year, with transmitter "PEW", ref. 194F (10 kW, 4637 m longwave, ≈64.7 kHz; ref. 194A-194E). Official Hell transmissions for ANP started in February of 1940, with the transmitter "PDK" (10410-10420 kHz, wavelength about ≈28.8 m). Transmissions were interrupted upon the German invasion of The Netherlands on 10 May 1940. During October - December 1940, Hell test transmissions were done on German "request", on behalf of DNB. Ref. 194F.
  • During the winter of 1944/45, the general manager of the ANP made several of the ANP's Hell-printers available to the "underground/resistance" press (ref. 87).
  • ANP was founding member of the "Hell Commune".
  • ANSA (Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Italiana; post-war replacement of the Stefani agency) receives Reuters' and TASS Hellcasts; no Hellcasts of its own. (1948; p. 58, 62 in ref. 88 ).
  • ANTARA (Kantorberita Antara; Indonesia): subscribed to Reuters' Hellschreiber transmissions; used one Siemens Presse-Hell printer on loan from Reuters.
  • AP (Associated Press, USA): teleprinter transmission from the USA to London and Frankfurt, and Hell transmission from Frankfurt to Europe (e.g., Hungary, Greece), Middle East (e.g., Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Israel), Asia (e.g., Malaysia, Birma). Hell printer at their radio listening post in Hayward (near San Francisco), New York (2 printers, ref. 147), and Europe (ref. 89). Ref. 146. Hellcasts from Berlin, Rome, London, Moscow (1941, ref. 147). Ref. 151.
Presse Hell 1945 AP

Fig. 12: AP's extensive worldwide network centers & links, including for Hellschreiber transmissions - 1948

(source: ref. 146)

  • APA (Austria Presse Agentur; 1946 post-war successor of ANA): owns Hellschreiber printers (pre-owned by DNB; 11 printers in 1946 per ref. 90), but not allowed to Hellcast (though ref. 145 states that APA distributed news to domestic media via Hell). No spares/replacement parts were available from Germany, as no trade was allowed between Germany and Austria (1948; p. 3 in ref. 88).
  • AR (Agenția de Presă RADOR ("Radio Orient"); Romania): used Hellschreiber printers since 1936.
  • ATA (Agence Télégraphique Albanaise, Albanian Telegraph Agency); own Hellcasts, and starting 1950, Hellcast reception limited to TASS.
  • ATS / SDA/ ATS / STA (Agence Télégraphique Suisse / Schweizerische Depeschenagentur / Agenzia Telegrafica Svizzera / Swiss Telegraphic Agency; Switzerland); used Hell printers as backup. This agency was part of the "Hell Commune".
  • BELGA (Belgisch Perstelegraaf Agentschap, "Agence télégraphique belge de presse"; Belgium): occasional reception of foreign Hellcasts. Starting in June of 1935, BELGA subscribed to German domestic service and the international service of DNB. Starting March of 1937, BELGA received Reuters Hellscasts. Ref. 192. BELGA was part of the "Hell Commune".
  • BPS (Burma Press Syndicate): subscribed to Reuters' Hellschreiber transmissions; Hell apparatus provided by Reuters. (p. 76 in ref. 84); Hellschreibers installed and operated in Rangoon by Reuters. (1948; p. 3 in ref. 56).
  • BTA (Bulgarski Telegrafitscheka Agentzia, Bulgarian News Agency); own Hellcasts, and starting 1950, Hellcast reception limited to TASS.
  • CNA (Central News Agency, Taiwan): Hellcasts to Japan, Philippines, and southeast Asia.
  • CTK (Čska Tiskova Kancelar, Czech News Agency; a.k.a. CETEKA): receives TASS Helcasts, and Hellcasts to foreign subscribers. Ref. 271.
  • DOMEI (Dōmei Tsūshin Sha - United News Agency): subscribed to DNB and Transocean Hellcast services (ref. 91). Domei cooperated closely with DNB, and used a telephone line through the Soviet Union until June of 1941, including for Hellschreiber communication (ref. 189).
  • EFE (Agencia Efe; Spain): Hellcasts to subscribers in the Balearic and Canary Islands and Spanish Morocco. Subscribed to Hell transmissions from other agencies (FP, Reuters, UP). EFE was founded in 1939 as a merger of three other Spanish agencies: Fabra, Faro, and Febus; "efe" is the letter "f" in Spanish, referring to the initial of the three founding agencies. Agencia Fabra in Madrid had 3 printers (model T.empf.12a) in 1935 (ref. 92).
  • ITIM Agency (Itonout Israel Meouguedet; Israel): subscribed to Hellschreiber transmissions from Reuters; had three Hellschreiber printers.
  • JP (Jiji Tsushin-Sha / Jiji Press Ltd, Tokyo/Japan): domestic Hellcasts with 3 transmitters of the Ministry of Telecommunications.
  • KCNA (Korean Central News Agency; North Korea): used Hellschreiber transmissions at least into 1989 (ref. 143).
  • KYODO (Japan): subscribed to Hellcasts from Reuters/London (6100 words/day); two Hellschreiber printers in the Tokyo office, more were added in 1952. The Kyodo news service used Hellschreiber transmissions until 1960, when it changed over to kanji script (ideographic, phonetic, and pictographic characters that were primarily developed in China, based on the "han" iconic characters) via telefax (ref. 93, 94).
  • LPS (London Press Service, LPS; post-war/cold-war successor to the British Official Wireless, and one of the "gray" propaganda services operated by the Overseas Press & Radio Division of the Central Office of Information (COI), ref. 158. Subscribers were British colonial and diplomatic posts around the world.
  • Extensive tests were done between various Post Office transmitters in Britain, and receiving stations on the Indian subcontinent and in the Americas (ref. 164F, 168A). From 1946 until at least 1956, the LPS and the British Information Services maintained Hellcasts via longwave and shortwave transmitters of the British Post Office (78 kHz, 7-20 MHz in 1950, 4-14 MHz in 1953, 5-20 MHz in 1956; ref 9A-9C, 159A, 160C, 164A).
  • A general technical problem at various British overseas post was interference with radio reception, caused by many local sources of electrical noise (and some poor antenna placement), ref. 164B - 164E. E.g., at the offices of the British Information Services in New Delhi - "India is probably the worst country in the world for radio!" - heavy automobile traffic [ = ignition noise] within 20 yards of Hell sets; high levels of radio interference from ca. 300 ceiling fans, several copying machines, several air conditioners, a dozen refrigerators, a teleprinter, as well as ca. 800 fans in the nearby palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad, high-voltage AC overhead cables at about 40 yards from the Hell set. There were also frequent mains power fluctuations and interruptions. Solutions were to rewire the entire installation, add electrical noise suppression to ceiling fans, identify noisy cars and install electrical noise suppression on their ignition system, prevent non-essential ( = foreign) cars from entering the premises during Hell transmission times, forbid switching on/off of electrical equipment during transmission times, turn on receiver 2 hrs ahead of transmission time (to warm up and reduce drift), and consider installing constant-output-voltage transformer/converters and the possibility of a remote antenna.
  • MKH (Magyar Központi Híradó Rt "Hungarian Central News"); ref. 95E. This agency was also part of the "Hell Commune" (ref. 95G).
  • MTI (Magyar Távirati Iroda; "Hungarian Telegraphic Office", Hungary): transmission of newscast in French by Hell (p. 103 in ref. 84), to Reuters/London, AFP/Paris and others; receives Hellcasts from Reuters/London, with Hellschreibers of "recent manufacture" (1948; p. 32 in ref. 88). Hellcasts continued at least through January of 1958 (ref. 96). At least in 1939, MTI subscribed to Hell-casts from DNB, Havas, Stefani, Polish Telegraph Office, and German Telegraph Office (ref. 277).
  • NCNA (New China News Agency, Hsin Hua Tung-hsün, Xinhua; government news agency of the People's Republic of China, founded 1931; named Red China News Agency until 1937): broadcast Hellschreiber messages to its offices in Prague, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Karachi at least until 1957 (ref. 97), and to East-Asia (in English) at least until well into 1959 (ref. 98). It also monitored Hell broadcast from other agencies (ref. 99, 100). Broadcast national and international news as Hellschreiber messages from Beijing to newspapers and voice broadcasting stations throughout China. The Chinese national meteorological service is also known to have used Hellschreiber. NCNA still had news Hellcasts 16 hours a day in 1980, to domestic/provincial subscribers (ref. 180). Occasional transmissions on a dozen different short wave freqencies were observed in 1887/88 (ref. ), and may even have continued to the early 1990s. The NCNA also appears to have used the Hell Blatschreiber system, as in 1956, the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) of the CIA placed Blattschreiber equipment in operation at the their Okinawa Bureau, "to cover NCNA numeral code from Peking, with good results". Ref. 186.
  • NTB (Norsk Telegrambyrå; Norway); using the Hell "strimmelskriver" (tape printer) system since 1934, for news broadcasts from Berlin, Rome, Paris, London and Moscow (ref. 101). Hellcasts with Norwegian news in English twice daily. Norway also used the Feld-Hell system during the German occupation during WW2, and NTB later switched over to the Hell Blattschreiber).
  • OST (Oy Suomen Tietotoimisto; Finland); ref. 95L. This agency was also part of the "Hell Commune" (ref. 95E, 95K).
  • PAP (Polska Agencja Prasowa; Poland): twice daily auxiliary transmissions in Russian and English by Hell, 4500 words/day. This agency was part of the "Hell Commune".
  • Pars Agency (Iran): subscribed to Hellschreiber transmissions from Reuters.
  • P.I.-ANETA (Persbiro Indonesia Aneta): subscribed to Hellschreiber transmissions from Reuters (6000 words daily) and ANP (Netherlands, 2500 words daily). It was the first news agency in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). By 1941 Aneta had become the semi-official news agency of the East Indies government. The agency's operations were restricted under Japanese occupation, and it eventually closed by 1946. Aneta changed its name to Persbiro Indonesia (Indonesian Press Bureau) in 1954 and merged into the rival Antara news agency in 1963. P.I.-ANETA did not itself send out Hellcasts.
  • PTI (Press Trust of India): subscribed to Globe Reuters' Hellschreiber transmissions, with reception at the Bombay office, by the Indian government on behalf of PTI. The Indian government had no intention to introduce the Hell system for inland or external telegraph services (ref. 185, 1956).
  • Reuters (Globereuter, Reuters international news agency, ref. 161A): Hell transmissions from England, 20-30k words/day. Transmissions to North America, Far East, Middle East and Europe, South and Central Africa; 15-25k words/day per zone. Hellcasts and up to 22 hours a day (ref. 163A). Reuters' Hell-service changed from the 12-line to 7-line Hell-font in August of 1939 (ref. 75). Reuters continued Hell-casts at least until 1958 (ref. 102). Reuters offered its subscribers to lease or rent Hell-printers (to be maintained by the subscriber) and radio receivers, ref. 159D. Also see ref. 172A-172F.
  • RB (Ritzaus Bureau I/S, Denmark): used Hellschreiber since 1934, probably including sending, until it started to transition to teleprinters in 1949 (ref. 103). This agency was also part of the "Hell Commune".
  • SAPA (South African Press Association): subscribed to Reuters' Hellschreiber transmissions, and had one Hell-printer from Reuters in 1950.
  • Singapore: had no national news agency; Reuters receives its own Hellcasts and distributes. AP also receives Hell service from London. (1948; p. 130, 131 in ref. 56).
  • STT (Suomen Tietotoimisto; Finska Notisbyrån Ab (FNB; Finnish Telegram Bureau): this agency was part of the "Hell Commune" and could receive Hellcasts.
  • TANJUG (Telegrafska Agencija Nova Jugoslavija; Yugoslavia); had its own domestic Hellcasts to offices/subscribers outside the five main cities. Subscribed to Hellcasts from foreign agencies. (p. 129 in ref. 84, 117).
  • TASS (Telegrafnoie Agentstvo Sovetskogo Soiuza, Телеграфное агентство Советского Союза, Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union): After the WW2, TASS had large scale press message broadcasts in Hellschreiber format, using equipment recuperated in its occupational zone. It had regular broadcasts in Russian, English, French, and German. TASS continued Hellschreiber broadcasts through the 1950s and probably until the mid-1960s (ref. 98, 104-109). Hell transmissions to Europe in English and Russian (24h/day), French and German (12h/day), mix of Soviet and foreign news. In 1952, used a number of shortwave frequencies (6880-15780 kHz).
  • TT (Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå; Sweden): subscribed to Hellcasts from other agencies that were not available via teleprinter (p. 122 in ref. 84); TASS, Reuters (exclusive rights for Sweden, ref. 161B), Havas, DNB, starting in 1934 (ref. 110). No Hellcasts. This agency was also part of the "Hell Commune".
  • UP (United Press (formally United Press Associations, UPA), USA): Hellschreiber printers at the UP office in Berlin, and UP listening stations in Valhalla, NY/USA, Barnet (near London/UK), Santiago/Chile, and Buenos Aires/Argentina (who also received Hellcasts from DNB, Tass, and Stefani). Ref. 148 (1942).
  • Venezuela: Reuters receives its own Hellcasts and distributes. (1948; p. 187 in ref. 97)
  • Xinhua : see NCNA (New China News Agency) above
  • Zpravodajská Agentima Slovenska (Z.A.S., Slovenia; dissolved in 1951): 3 Hellprinters for Hellcasts from Reuters and TASS.

The above list is not exhaustive. There other news agencies that used Hell, but I have no documentary evidence of that (yet). Many newspapers, such as The New York Times, also printed Hellcasts directly (ref. 144). Radio Free Europe (RFE, a US government- and CIA-funded broadcast organization founded in 1949, merged with Radio Liberty in 1953) monitored Hellcasts from AGERPRES, ATA, BTA, Tanjug, MTI, PAP, CTK, and TASS (ref. 156). Other types of news organizations also subscribed to hellcasts. E.g., the news room of Radio Monte-Carlo had several Hellschreiber printers in operation around 1951 (ref. 193). The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) covered Hellschreiber transmissions at least through 1973. Ref. 173A/B/C/D.

Presse Hell 1945 AP

Figure 13: Presse Hell print outs with German news, at the London office of AP - 1945

(source: ref. 149)

The Chinese news and meteorological services (like the Japanese news services) also used the Hellschreiber system for transmission of pictographic characters. Note that there are about 50 thousand different characters in use, of which 10 thousand in common use and 4 thousand suffice for news casts (ref. 178). So character entry was not done done with a keyboard, but with a system that optically scanned hand-written text, similar to the ZETFAX of the Hell company, the RCA Tapefax, and the RC-58B system of the US Army (WWII). The Toho Denki Kabushikigaisha company (Eastern Electric Ltd.) in Japan made such Hellschreiber systems for the Japanese and Chinese markets (ref. 93). Toho Denki K.K. was a fax equipment manufacturer, and became part of Matsushita Graphic Communication Systems Inc. in 1962.

Chinese Hell print-out

Figure 14A: Hellcast in Chinese: "... was appointed as government official of the Republic of China [ = Taiwan]"

(source: ref. 93)

Chinese Hell print-out

Fig. 14B: Hellcast in Chinese: "...formal diplomatic relations between two countries. The Government of the Republic of China..."

(source: ref. 176)

Chinese Hell print-out

Figure 14C: Hellcast in Chinese: "The destination is important. The maintenance manual shall be visible"

(source: ref. 108)

Chinese Hell print-out

Figure 14D: Hellcast in Chinese - recorded from a Beijing station on 14040 kHz (late 1970s/early 1980s)

(source: Fig. 11.1.f in ref. 140, courtesy RSGB; used with permission)


In November of 1939, after the German invasion of Poland, the Dutch news agency ANP and the Belgian news agency BELGA took the initiative to found an association of neutral national news agencies, together with the Scandinavian agencies NTB (Norway), TT (Sweden), STT (Finland), RB (Denmark), and the Swiss agency SDA. This was a response to the fact that the largest agencies (Wolff/DNB, Havas, Reuters, and Associated Press) were no longer independent and objective. This association was called the "Hell Commune", as these newscasts were in Hell-format. Ref. 112, 188, 191. The member-agencies sent their news messages to the Commune's headquarters in Amsterdam (via teleprinters or other means), where they were merged into a common newscast. These Hellcasts were broadcast by Radio Kootwijk, the powerful long-wave and shortwave transmitter station of the Dutch PTT, located about 75 km east of Amsterdam (ref. 113). Official Hellcast services started in February of 1940, only to come to an end 3 months later, upon the German invasion of The Netherlands. Ref. 95A-95D. In total, the Commune counted over 20 members. Ref. 95K. The "Commune" agencies re-united again in the fall of 1945 as "Group '39", named after the year in which the "Hell Commune" was founded. There were test transmissions during the spring of 1949 (ref. 95D, 95E), but it does not appear that regular "Commune" Hellcasts ever resumed.

In April of 1947, the Dutch state-owned radio system was split into domestic and international broadcasts. The latter was handled by "Radio Nederland Wereldomroep" (RNW, Radio Netherlands World Service). During the 1950s, overage was extended to the Dutch East and West Indies, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and Brasil. RNW broadcast news copyrighted by ANP, without paying ANP for the service. This resulted in ANP losing money on its Hellcast to, e.g., the Dutch West Indies. At the same time, ANP's newspaper customers were pressuring ANP to lower the subscription fees for the Hell-service, as they were facing steep increases in the cost of newsprint paper. Ref. 95G. This situation prompted ANP to try and start the Dutch Wereld-Helldienst ("World Hell-Service"), in cooperation with the Dutch government. ANP tried, in vain, to get RNW to provide to free-of-charge time on RNW transmitters as compensation. The Dutch P.T.T., monopoly owner of all transmission rights in the country, charged hefty fees to ANP for transmission time. Ref. 95H, 95J. ANP even solicited the services and influence of His Royal Highness Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands, and accused the P.T.T. of foul play. Ref. 95F, 95L. ANP's World Hell-Service never materialized...


Rudolf Hell's first Hellschreiber prototypes used electro-chemical printing, without the characteristic spinning helix. The paper tape was impregnated with yellowish potassium ferrocyanide (prussiate of potash, "gelbes Blutlaugensaltz", unlike the red ferricyanide). Often, ammonium nitrate was added as a deliquescent (to keep the paper damp). The tape has to be moist, so as to conduct electrical current. Passing current through the yellowish salt solution causes electro-oxidation to decompose the salt solution into a compound called Prussian Blue ("preußisch Blau", "Berlin Blau"). The impregnated paper tape only turns dark blue at the electrode with the highest potential. The tape is bleached at the electrode with the lower/negative potential. Typically, a potential of about 1 volt suffices. Heating the compound causes toxic cyanide to be released.

Prussian Blue dye was used since the early 1700s, including for dyeing the cloth used for the uniforms of the Prussian military - hence its name. It is also gave its characteristic color to "blueprints": copies of technical drawings, based on a photochemical process involving Prussian Blue, widely used in the decades preceding the modern photocopier.

Instead of a spindle, the printer had 14 styluses, placed into a column across the paper tape, touching the tape (ref. 1). Electrical current was applied sequentially ( = scanning) to each individual stylus, the current circuit being closed via the moist paper tape and a metal roller underneath the tape. This form of printing proved impractical: the paper tape had to be kept moist, it had an unpleasant smell, the chemicals would cause the paper tape to fall apart, dried paper tape would shrink, and printed text faded (ref. 121). Note that electro-chemical tape printers where not at all new, see the "How it works" page.


Figure 15: Hell's 1929 prototype with electrical printing on chemically impregnated paper tape

(source: Fig. 2 in ref. 1; the label on the base printer reads "Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell")

As stated above, this printing method did not use a printing helix, and was impractical. It was abandoned in 1931, in favor of the first generation Hell-printer that did have a printing helix. The new printer had a roll of plain paper tape, and a roll of thin single-use carbon-paper ribbon ("Kohlepapier"), the same width as the paper tape. The ribbon is placed between the printer-paper tape and the printer spindle. The paper tape and carbon-ribbon are continuously pressed against the spindle. The spindle is dentilled (i.e., the thread is "toothed"). Reception of a tone pulse caused an electro-magnet to vibrate and rub the paper tape back and forth against the carbon-paper and spindle, in the direction across the width of the paper tape. This caused carbon particles to be transferred from the carbon-tape onto the paper tape, at the point where the spindle thread touched the paper. This printer was industrialized and manufactured by Siemens-Halske, who also provided the required fast printer-solenoid technology. Clearly, the fact that this printing methods requires using carbon tape (or inked ribbon) is neither practical nor elegant. Another disadvantage is that significant rubbing or tapping force is required to transfer the carbon "ink" from the tape onto the paper. This causes friction and inertia, which makes maintaining constant speed of the paper tape and spindle difficult - as noted by Rudolf Hell in his 1950 Morse-printer patent (US patent 2731322; column 1, lines 40-45).

Presse hell

Figure 16: Carbon-paper and dentilled spindle mechanism

(source left image: Fig. 3 in ref. 1 and Fig. 5 in ref. 122; right image: Fig. 1 in Hell's patent 698550)

Patent number Patent office Year Inventor(s) Patent owner(s) Title (original) Title (translated)
698550 RPA 1935 Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell Anordnung zur Aufzeichnung von Schriftzeichen, die durch Bildelementen entsprechende Impulsreihen durch ein Magnetsystem und eine umlaufende Schreibspindel übertragen und deren Linien aus gleichlangen, parallel zur Auzeichnungsrichtung verlaufenden Strichen zusammengesetzt werden Device for recording characters, decomposed into pixel impulses, with a magnet-system and turning printer spindle, as lines made up of same-length strokes parallel to the printing direction

Presse hell

Figure 17: Early combination of a Hellschreiber keyboard-sender and printer with carbon tape - 1931

(source: Fig. 4 in ref. 1)

The next four illustrations show the model "S5" Hellschreiber printer and keyboard-sender system. Ref. 195. It was the standard free-running Hell system, i.e., not a start-stop Hell system. The printer did require sufficiently strong audio tone pulses, either from a radio receiver or from an audio amplifier. The tone pulses (500-1000 Hz tone frequency) drove the 4-pole printer solenoid directly. I.e., the tone pulses were not rectified. The printer was capable of printing up to 400 characters per minute! By stacking three paper tapes and three carbon tapes, three copies of the received text could be printed simultaneously.

Presse hell

Figure 18A: The 1932 Hellschreiber printer model "S5 E" with carbon tape

(source: ref. 195; the printed text reads "up to 400 characters per minute"; the "E" in "S5 E" stands for "Empfänger" = receiver = printer)

Presse hell

Figure 18B: Dimensions of the 1932 Hellschreiber printer model "S5 E"

(source: ref. 195)

At 180 characters/min =  3 characters/sec, the associated keyboard-sender generated characters with a 240 baud telegraphy speed, corresponding to a pixel pulse duration of 4.167 msec. Ref. 195 states that each pixel duration corresponded to about 1/80 of the complete character transmission duration. I.e., a dot-matrix font of close to 80 row/column elements, e.g., 9x9. This does not correspond to one of the known Hellschreiber fonts...

Presse hell

Figure 19A: The 1932 model Hellschreiber keyboard-sender model "S5 G"- with external motor

(source: ref. 195; the "G" in "S5 G" stands for "Geber" = sender)

This keyboard-sender was quite compact:

Presse hell

Figure 19B: The dimensions of the 1932 Hellschreiber keyboard-sender model "S5 G"

(source: ref. 195)

Note that the keyboard layout in the drawing has a space-bar, whereas the actual sender does not. Also, the orientation of the toggle switches on the motor module is different.

The next two illustrations show a slighly different printer model (probably from 1933): the roll of paper tape is now on the right-hand side of the unit:

Presse hell

Figure 20: Right-to-left: "Siemens-Hell" printer, printer keying-amplifier, Telefunken radio receiver E 376 with loop antenna

(source: Fig. 5 in ref. 122; also: Fig. 13 in ref. 123)

Presse hell

Figure 21: An early Siemens-Hell-Schreiber, with carbon tape - 1933

(source: Fig. 9 in ref. 124, Fig. 6 in ref. 125)


The T.empf.12 (Telegrafieempfänger 12) is the original Siemens-Halske commercial Hellschreiber "Empfangsfernschreiber" printer model. This "Presse Hell" printer was used extensively throughout the 1930s by news papers and news agencies, as well as the German postal system.

Two versions of the T.empf.12 were made: T.empf.12a and T.empf.12b. Both are simple "printer only" devices: they comprise a power supply, a motor with centrifugal speed regulation, and a printer spindle with an electro-magnet. These Hellschreibers do not contain the electronic circuitry that is required to energize the electromagnet. This means that a suitable detector-amplifier ("Zwischengerät", "Tastgerät", "Tastverstärker") must be placed between the loudspeaker output of the radio receiver and the printer magnet. An other option is to use a special "Hellempfänger" (Hell-receiver) with a solenoid-driver.

The basic characteristics of the T.empf.12a Hellschreibers are as follows (ref. 126):

  • Year of manufacture: 1933.
  • Printer spindle: one two-turn dentilled thread (prints two identical lines of text).
  • Ink source for the spindle: single-use carbon paper ("Kohlepapier").
  • Telegraphy speed: selectable, 5 or 2.5 chars/sec, i.e., 300 or 150 chars/min. This is equivalent to 245 or 122.5 Bd. Speed selection was done by changing two gear wheels.
  • Printer solenoid current: 10 mA (grey printer module T.syst.23a/b) or 20 mA (black printer module T.syst.23c/d/e). Ref. 142
  • Tone frequency: 900 Hz.
  • Motor: universal (AC/DC) motor, with centrifugal speed regulator.
  • Power: selectable, 110/125/150/220 volt AC, 50 Hz (ref. 1).
  • Remote control (for unattended operation): optional. This required additional circuitry for detecting the control signal, a relay for the motor, and a toggle switch. A tone pulse of at least 0.5 sec would turn the motor on, whereas a tone of about 8 sec would turn the motor off.
  • Accessory: a winder for the printed tape, powered by a clock spring; model Fm.div.359c.
  • Housing: sheet metal.

The associated printer-amplifier had three vacuum tubes (valves). The types depended on whether the amplifier was AC-powered or DC-powered (i.e., with batteries for the tubes' anode and heater-filament). AC-powered: RGN 1054 4-volt dual-diode, REN 904 triode and RE 604 power-triode. DC-powered: REN 1821 triode and two REN 1822 power-triodes. Ref. 126.

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Figure 23: The front of "Presse Hell" printer model T.empf.12a

(source: Fig. 1 in ref. 126)

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Figure 24: Joining and separating of the carbon tape and the paper tape in the T.empf.12a

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Figure 25: The rear of "Presse Hell" model T.empf.12a - cover removed

(source: Fig. 2 in ref. 126)

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Fig. 26: T.empf.12a printer at the Hungarian news agency MTI - printed tape is transcribed with a typewriter (1934)

(source: Filmhíradók Online; E376 receiver to the right of the printer)

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Figure 27: Several T.empf.12a "Presse-Hell" printers at Reuters in Manila/Philippines - 1950s (!)

(source: Fig. 40 in ref. 127)

Hell-printer model T.empf.12a at the Hungarian news agency MTI (1934)

(source: Filmhíradók Online; Hellschreiber shown after 12 sec from start of the clip)

Siemens-Hell printer model T.empf.12b looks similar to model 12a. However, the photos below clearly show that there is no roll of carbon paper installed above the roll of paper tape! Model 12b - and all subsequent Hell-printer models - use an inked felt ring to keep the printer spindle covered with ink. This also means that model 12b does not have a vibrator below the paper tape, and the spindle has a solid thread instead of a dentilled thread.

The initial electro-magnet comprised two cores and windings, configured as part of two separate circuits, one of which was resonant at 900 Hz. Ref. 1. I.e., the printer-solenoid was not energized with DC-pulses, but directly with the received (and amplified) 900 Hz tone pulses.

The basic characteristics of the T.empf.12b Hellschreiber are as follows:

  • Years of manufacture: 1934-1939.
  • Ink source for the spindle (for this and all subsequent Hell-printer models): inked felt ring.
  • Size: 36x22x22 cm (WxDxH; ≈14x8½x8½ inch)
  • Weight: 11 kg (≈ 24 lbs)
  • Power consumption: 45 watt
  • Price: see the "Hell equipment prices" page.

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Figure 28A: A 1934 "Presse Hell" model T.empf.12b (serial number 5747)

(source: "Hell strimmelskriver Siemens & Halske" in the collection of the Norsk Teknisk Museum (Oslo/Norway))

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Figure 28B: Another "Presse Hell" model T.empf.12b

(source: armyradio.wiki, ©2020 M. Boesch, used with permission)

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Figure 29A: Rear of the T.empf.12b - without cover

(source: Fig. 10 in ref. 128)

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Figure 29B: T.empf.12b - without cover

(source original image: armyradio.wiki, ©2020 M. Boesch, used with permission)

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Figure 30: T.empf.12b printers, each with an E38 radio receiver - ANP news agency (The Netherlands) - 1939

(source/photographer: Wiel van der Randen)

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Fig. 31: T.empf.12b printers in the info center of the "Reichssendeleitung" of the "Großdeutsche Rundfunk" - January 1940

(photographer: Curt Ullmann, published by "Hier Berlin und alle deutschen Sender", 1940, nr. 24)

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Fig. 32: Radio room of the Swedish news agency Tidningarnas Telegrambyrå (TT) with model T.emp.12b Hell-printers, and E 376 receivers

(source: ref. 110)

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Figure 33: T.empf.12b printer with keying-amplifier - connected to an HF-radio telephone system

(source: Fig. 57 in ref. 129)

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Fig. 34: A complete Presse-Hell receiver station with a Telefunken E376 radio, keying amplifier, T.empf.12b and tape winder

(source: Fig. 9 in ref. 11)

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Fig. 35: A complete Presse-Hell receiver station ca. 1940, with a Telefunken E415 radio, keying amplifier, T.empf.12b and tape winder

(source: Fig. 1 in ref. 141)

The Swiss army also used T.empf.12b printers, in combination with with model T.verst.16a keying-amplifiers, model T.send.17 Hell-senders, model T.sum.3 tone oscillators, and Lorenz EO 509/I general-coverage receivers. All are visible in the photo below.

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Figure 36: Swiss Army Hellschreiber field-system "36" (with T.empf .12b and Lorenz EO509 radio)

(source: ref. 130; location: Swiss Army Kdo. III AK in Lucerne, 1941)

Hell-printer model T.empf.12b of the Dutch news agency ANP in action (1936)

(source: Polygoon Hollands Nieuws; Hellschreiber shown after 1:30 min from start of the clip)

Siemens-Hell printer model T.empf.12c is nearly identical to model 12b, both inside and outside, based on photos. I have not been able to determine the exact difference.

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Figure 37: Equipment label on the rear of a Tempf12c printer


In 1940, model T.empf.12 was replaced with model T.empf.14. Again, this is a "Presse Hell" device, used extensively by newspapers and news agencies. Its printer solenoid is DC-powered. The printer does not have a built-in tone-detector/printer-amplifier. So an external detector/amplifier is required between the printer and the phone line or radio receiver. Alternatively, a special radio receiver with built-in detector/amplifier can be used. E.g., the Minerva and Telefunken Hell-receivers.

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Figure 37: Front-view of a Siemens-Hell-Schreiber T.empf.14

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Figure 38: Close-up of the printer module of a Siemens-Hell-Schreiber T.empf.14

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Figure 39: Right- & left-hand side of a Siemens-Hell-Schreiber T.empf.14

Main characteristics of the T.empf.14 are:

  • Years of manufacture: 1940-45, 1947 - ?
  • Printer spindle: 2-start (i.e., two single-turn threads that are 180° shifted).
  • Telegraphy speed: 5 characters/sec (300 chars/min).
  • Housing: molded Bakelite ("Preßstoff").
  • Size: 31x23x21 cm (≈12x8x9½ inch).
  • Weight: 6½ kg (≈14 lbs).
  • Motor: 4000 rpm "universal motor", i.e., an AC series-motor (a.k.a. AC commutator motor). Such motors can operate on both DC and single-phase-AC current of about the same voltage. Here: 220 Volt AC/DC, or 110 VDC / 125 VAC (ref. 131, 132A, 132B, 133). The motor has a centrifugal speed regulator.
  • In some machines, a combination of jumpers (wire bridges) is used to select between the various voltages.
  • In some machines, changing between 110/125 and 220 volt operation requires changing out the motor, in addition to setting the jumpers (ref. 134B).
  • In some machines, a 110/125 volt motor with series-resistors is used (mounted on the motor), and operation of 220 volt requires changing jumper settings and changing the series-resistors (ref. 134B).
  • Some machines are only for a single voltage. Units with serial number 12000 and above are 220 V only, as they do not have the possibility to install wire bridges for 110/125 volt operation.
  • Careful: these days, "220 volt" power outlets actually carry 240 volt! This will burn out a 220 V printer! I use a rheostat to actually run my T.empf.14 on about 117 volt.
  • EMI suppression for the carbon brushes is provided from 37.5 kHz – 30 MHz.
  • As in the T.empf.12, about half of the T.empf.14 circuitry is for remote on/off control: it involves a regular relay, a time-delay relay, a thermal timer relay, six relay contacts, and a contact that is actuated by the armature of the printer magnet. The relative complex switching sequence is illustrated in ref. 135, ref. 136. A constant tone of at least 0.5 sec is used to turn the machine on, a tone pulse of 7-10 sec to turn it off (ref. 131, 133; at least 8 sec per ref. 132), 4 sec with the toggle switch in the "o" position.
  • Some versions of this model have an audio transformer followed by a full-wave selenium rectifier bridge at the input. This allows direct hook-up to a "Fernmeldeleitung" (standard 48 or 60 volt DC telephone line).

The Siemens-Hell-printers normally have manufacturing/inspection stamps and maintenance notes on the inside (all with a date):

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Figure 40: Left: 5-June-1940 (acceptance?) stamp inside the printer; right: 22-Nov-1967 general overhaul

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Figure 41: Left: Jan-1982 - last recorded maintenance; right: Feb-1979 and March-1984 maintenance dates in DENA printer

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Figure 42: Rear of a T.empf.14 - cover removed

(original unedited photo: H. Fykse (L6NCA) used with permission)

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Figure 43: The quality-control acceptance stamps in the machine shown above are from 16 and 30 September 1940

("T69" and "T104" identify the inspector of Siemens-Halske's telegraphy equipment manufacturing department)

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Figure 44: Rear of the same T.empf.14 machine - cover removed, circuit card lowered

(the two stacks of small disks in the lower left-hand corner are "Gleichrichtersäule" - dry-disk rectifier-diode stacks)

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Figure 45: T.empf.14 manufacturing at Siemens

(source: Bundesarchiv, "Fabrikationssaal bei Siemens" [Factory floor at Siemens] in "Welt im Bild" of 14-Nov-1947)

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Figure 46: The label on the housing and on the motor of my first T.empf.14

(the motor is a 110 volt AC / 125 volt DC "universal" motor)

On all T.empf.14 equipment labels that I have seen so far, the "Alphab." field is left blank. I presume that this field was intended to indicate whether the machine was intended for the (old) 12-line or for the 7-line Hell font. However, unlike the T.empf.12a, the T.empf.14 was only used with the 7-line Hell font, so there was no need to mark up the label.

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Figure 47: The label on another T.empf.14

(source: © Mauro Fattori (IK2WRS); used with permission)

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Figure 48A: Mounting of printer module onto an interface plate and onto the chassis and drive unit

(source: adapted from ref. 132B; also see ref. 285)

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Figure 48B: Cut-away view of the motor and gearing

(source: adapted from ref. 132B; also see ref. 285)

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Figure 48C: Printer material and tool box for the T.empf.14

(source: adapted from ref. 285)

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Figure 49: Printer module of my T.empf.14 - cover removed

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Figure 50: Printer module of my T.empf.14 - side & front, cover removed

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Figure 51: Printer module of my T.empf.14 - front & bottom, cover removed

The large black Bakelite detent-wheel at the bottom of the module is for adjusting the height of the printer-hammer. This external wheel can be turned up to 180° in either direction. A leaf spring on the printer housing prevents the wheel from spinning freely. The Bakelite wheel has the MPAD marking 34 31. Here, "34" identifies the "Preßwerk" - the factory where the material was molded: Siemens-Schuckertwerke, Abteilung Isolierstoffe, in Berlin-Siemenststadt. The material code "31" refers to "rapidly curing Bakelite". See the "molding marks" section of the RV12P4000 vacuum tube page.

The two photos above show two orange-colored solenoids. They are marked as follows:

  • 750.5600  = DC-resistance (750 ohms), 5600 wire turns
  • 0,07 CuL  = 0.07 mm enameled copper wire (a.k.a. magnet wire, magwire)
  • T.Bv.3/474  = telegraphy manufacturing specification 3/474
  • Ausgabe II = Issue 2
  • Siemens-Halske Logo

As stated above, model T.empf.14 was introduced in 1940. Around that same time, a nearly identical printer module appeared on the military Feld-Hell machine, replacing the original single-solenoid module.

There are several pressed markings on the inside of the Bakelite rear-cover of my machine: the type designator T.empf.14.T105 (T105 may be the part number of the cover itself), the entwined S-H Siemens-Halske logo, and the MPAD code 34 Z2. Again, the factory code "34" implies Siemens-Schuckertwerke. The material code "Z2" refers to "Phenolharz (Bakelit) mit Zellstoff als Füllstoff". I.e., Bakelite with cellulose filler (e.g., shredded paper).

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Figure 52: Markings on the inside of the bakelite rear-cover of my T.empf.14

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Figure 53: Tape printed by the above machine

(fragment of the telegram (ref. 137) sent as part of "Operation Walküre/Valkyrie" by Graf von Stauffenberg et al; it was actually never broadcast to Hell-printers)

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Figure 54: T.empf.14 printer - receiving wireless Hellcast from DNB in Berlin, 1941

(source: ref. 138A, note the paper tape winder to the left of the typewriter)

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Figure 55: T.empf.14 printer - same image, but taken at different angle and different Hell print-out at bottom

(source: ref. 138B, 138C; note the E38 receiver to the right of the printer)

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Fig. 56: Photo of DENA stand at a 1946 West-Berlin trade show - T.empf.14 printer, Minerva 499 SH radio receiver, tape winder

(source: adapted from image in ref. 139)

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Fig. 57: T.empf.14 printer and a Minerva 499 SH radio at the "Tagesspiegel" ["Daily Mirror"] newspaper in Berlin (1946)

(source: ref. 196)

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Figure 58: T.empf.14 with a T.verst.18a amplifier and a Telefunken long-wave radio

Here is a 10 sec video clip that I made of a T.empf.14 printer in action:

Siemens-Hell printer model "T empf 14"

(©2011 F. Dörenberg)

In 1950 (!), Rudolf Hell patented a Hell-printer that looks very much like the T.empf.14 Presse-Hell machine. It comprises a simple, cheap, small record-player (turntable) motor with centrifugal speed-regulator, printer-amplifier, fixed-frequency radio receiver and loudspeaker (hidden behind the roll of paper tape), and associated controls. The paper-transport is direct-drive, the spindle drive is geared. The motorized printer module is inserted from the front, the receiver-amplifier module from the rear.

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Figure 59: Proposed Hell-printer with integrated radio and printer-amplifier

(source: Fig. 1 in Hell patent 872515)

Patent number Patent office Year Inventor(s) Patent owner(s) Title (original) Title (translated)
872515 DPA 1950 Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell, Dipl.-Ing. Heinz Taudt Siemens & Halske A.G. Faksimile-Schreiber für Schriftzeichenübertragung mit baulicher Vereinigung des Schreibsystems, des Antriebsmotors und des für den Betrieb des Schreibsystems erforderlichen Verstärkers Fax-printer for character transmission, with integration of the printer-head, motor, and printer-amplifier

My 3D/stereoscopic photos of the T.empf.14 are here.


External links last checked: February 2016 unless noted otherwise.

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