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Interesting Facts About the Television Teleprompter Equipment

Television teleprompter equipment has gone a long way since it was first used in classic Greek theater. Learn interesting facts leading up to the modern use of teleprompters.

Television teleprompter equipment go way back

Using television teleprompter equipment might not be the oldest professionTelevision teleprompter equipment there is, but it has been around for quite a while now. It is believed that there were even used in classic Greek theater in the form of people whispering lines to actors who had a short lapse of memory. From the early days of theater in ancient Green up to Shakespeare’s plays at The Globe Theater today, one of the constant elements has always been the prompter or prompt corner.

There is a whole genre of single-game print cartoons that depict guys in the prompting booth making cracks on the Wagnerian soprano in her Viking helmet. Research has found that the original ‘prompt box’ is theater was located stage left, and it varied from a small table on the wings to a complete installation of a booth. In today’s times, it often comes with a communications intercom, green and red cue lights for the actors, controls for safety curtain and other emergency equipment, or telephone communications to the front of the house.

The inspiration behind the electronic teleprompter came in during the 1940s from Broadway actor Fred Barton who wanted a device that can help him remember his lines. He pitched this idea to 20th Century Fox VP for radio and television Irvin Kahn. In turn, Kahn sought the expertise of Hubery Schlafly, a broadcast engineer and director of television research at Fox, who then developed the first paper scroll prompter. It debuted in 1950 on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, and the soap opera The First Hundred Years.

Schlafly, Kahn and Barton were convinced that there is a huge potential market for their invention, so they started a new company, naming it TelePrompTer Corp. The first big break of the company outside the studio came when former president Herbert Hoover introduced the TelePrompTer as a political speaker tool in a speech before the 1952 Republican National Convention.

At the same time, I Love Lucy producer Jess Oppenheimer made claims crediting the invention of the teleprompter. He applied and was awarded a US patent for the device. His version of the teleprompter was used for the commercial productions of Lucille Ball’s. Aside from this dispute, President Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to use a teleprompter for his State of the Union address.

In 1954 as well, Eisenhower wanted to give a television version of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Cats. Two teleprompters were used to give the living room television audiences the impression that he was looking directly at them, talking informally. A few years later in 1975, the Chicago Tribune featured an article about the preparations of Gerald Ford for his State of the Union address. The article noted that an aid suggested he use the old teleprompter system from the White House basement , unused since the days of Lyndon Johnson.

There were rumors that Ford, who was nearsighted, had a hard time reading the dated teleprompter equipment, so he ended up buying new ones. According to this article, the staffers of the White House tried to control the delivery of Ford’s speech by having the technician slow down the speed of the scroll so Ford can speak more slowly. This is a practice frowned upon by many professional teleprompter equipment operators practice because it puts additional stress on the speaker.

Many presidents have used teleprompter equipment as a tool for speech delivery from the days of Eisenhower to Clinton to Obama

One exception to this is former president Nixon, who always open to use note cards instead of a teleprompter. Outside the political circle, television shows, corporate events and news networks, today, teleprompters are even used in live concerts, assisting performers with their lyrics. Notable artists who regularly used teleprompters include Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Liza Minnelli and more.

From acient Greek Theater to today’s modern times, the job of teleprompter equipment will remain listening in the wings of the stage. Anyone can buy a teleprompter these days, which have since them become available in varying sizes, uses, and features. Teleprompter rentals are also popular these days; you just have to make sure that you hire equipment and pay for the services of an operator from a reputable business. Contact one in your area now and learn their added services and rates.


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