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About inventor Rudolf Hell

HELL was a manufacturer of teleprinter, fax and cipher machines, based in Kiel (Germany). The company was founded in 1929 by Rudolf Hell, one of Germany's most important and most productive inventors of the previous century. Nevertheless, Hell is generally not well-known.
Rudolf Hell was born in 1901 and invented his first device, the so-called Hellschreiber in 1925. It was patented in 1929, when he started his own company in Babelsberg, Berlin (Germany) [2]. Before and during WWII, he produced Hellschreibers for the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe. After WWII, the company was re-established and Rudolf Hell kept inventing.

Rudolf Hell is also the inventor and patent-holder of the modern Fax (1956), a colour scanner (1963) and a CRT-based computer typesetter (Datensichtgerät, 1965). Computer-based typesetters would be used by the printing industry for the next several decades, and is now commonly known as Desktop Publishing.

During his lifetime, Hell was awarded numerous times. He received, for example, the Knight Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Werner von Siemens Ring and the Eduard Rhein Ring of Honour. In 1977, Rudolf Hell was awarded the Gutenberg Prize by the City of Mainz. In his Laudation, Prof. Hermann Zapf (known for his Zapf-Dingbats and Palatino typefaces), called him the Edison of the Graphic Industry [4].
Rudolf Hell (source and copyright unknown)

Over the years a wide variety of machines was built by HELL, but also by Siemens und Halske to whom they licenced several designs. HELL also built cipher machines under licence from other manufacturers, such as the H-54 (basically a copy of the Hagelin CX-52) and the STG-61 (a copy of the Hagelin CD-57). Eventually, HELL was taken over by Siemens AG in 1981. In 1990, the graphics-related business was merged with Linotype and became known as Linotype-Hell AG. In 2002, Rudolf Hell died, 100 years old, in Kiel (Germany), leaving a lifetime of inventions.

The most commonly known HELL company logo

Cipher machines
After WWII, HELL also produced a number of cipher machines. As Gremany was not allowed to develop cipher machines in the years following WWII, these devices were built under license from companies like Hagelin in Zwitzerland. Nevertheless, they were often improved by HELL. The following cipher machines, manufactured by HELL, are covered on this website:
STG-61 hand-held cipher machine (CD-57 clone) STG-61 H-54 pin-wheel cipher machine (CX-52 clone) H-54

 HELL cipher machines

Rudolf Hell's first invention was the Hellschreiber (1925/1929). It is sometimes referred to as the forerunner of the fax and was used to transmit written text-based messages over radio or telephone lines, similar to a teleprinter (telex). Unlike a teleprinter however, which uses a 5-bit digital code, the analogue Hellschreiber is far more immune to radio interference and noise.

HELL-transmissions can be recognized by their typical 'chirping' sound. As it transmits a scanned image of a character, it only needs a very narrow analogue radio channel, Being analogue, the text can still be recognized by the human brain, even when it is scattered by harsh conditions (interference, noise, fading, etc.).

Hellschreibers were used heavily by the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe during WWII. Although they were replaced in the early 1960s by teleprinters and (later) computers, some countries kept using them well into the 1970s.
Radio amateurs
In the mid-1970s, the war-time Hellschreiber (Feld Hell) was rediscovered by a group of radio amateurs (hams) in Europe. Some of them had acquired an original Hellschreiber without knowing exactly what it was, and went looking for ways to (re)use it. In the following years, a new (ham) radio-mode was born and special licences for its use were issued by the authorities. Today, HELL - in its many flavours - still is a popular radio mode.
Hellschreiber variants
  • Feld Hell (Feldfernschreiber)
  • Hell 72 GL
  • Hell 73 AGL
  • Hell 80
  • Presse Hell
  • ATF Hell (Abtastfernschreiber, DDR, NVA)
  1. Frank Dörenberg, Hellschreiber Website
    Retrieved February 2010.

  2. Wikipedia, HELL (English)
    Retrieved January 2009.

  3. Wikipedia, HELL (German)
    Retrieved January 2009.

  4. Hell Verein Kiel
    Retrieved April 2013.

Further information

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