Stock Ticker Machine

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The stock-ticker machine was a device very much like the present-day digital stock ticker. It was a ticker-tape machine that would continuously send updates on stock prices to traders not physically on the Stock Exchange floor. This version/use of the ticker-tape machine helped to close the gap between time and space in the business world, helping to improve the economy.


The Stock Exchange floor was a hectic place to be. Gold was traded against paper money, or "greenbacks" as they were called. "Messengers would rush to and from the exchange to bring news of prices to customers, and the tidings would be sent by telegraph throughout the country." The original stock-ticker claims to be invented by different people, as inventions tend to be. One was Frank Pope, then the general manager of the Gold & Stock Reporting Telegraph Co. Samuel Laws's ticker, put into use in 1866 in order to reduce floor traffic, was a battery powered clock-like device that printed out ticker tape with updated gold prices. He would have it placed in the exchange's window for all traders to see. Eventually, his ticker updated prices on commodities as well. The other was Edward A. Calahan, whose version fronted the Gold Stock Telegraph Co. Calahan's in 1867. The two rival companies sued each other over copyright infringements, but to no avail (Sobel). Thomas Edison made major adjustments to the ticker. One day on Wall Street in the New York Stock Exchange, one of the stock tickers broke down and know one knew how to fix it. Edison came in, fiddled with it for a few minutes, and had it working again. He then took the design and made some alterations, creating a new and improved version of the machine in the early 1870s (Reville). His version didn't require a local battery and was capable of being used over longer lines. He then sold his patent to obtain funds (Sobel).

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Edison's Improved Stock Ticker Machine (Sobel).


The stock ticker machine, beginning with Laws's gold-price indicator, had major effects on securities trade and the New York Stock Exchange.


As explained above, before the new technology, messengers were sent back and forth to execute trades and having someone on the Exchange floor was a necessity to stay informed of prices. What the stock ticker machines were able to do was allow traders on Wall Street to stay up-to-date from their offices. "Now they could remain in their offices, watching the ticker, and send messengers to the floor to relay orders to their trading partners." Even those not located near New York could still obtain price information and telegraph in trades (Sobel). The stock ticker machine, as well as other ticker-tape technologies, was yet another communication invention that helped close the gap between space and time, allowing more instantaneous business transactions from greater distances, especially with Edison's version which could carry over greater distances. Ticker machines also could provide a nearly continuous update on stock prices with nearly no time delay, with new prices updating about every twenty minutes (as it still tends to in today's Stock Exchange) (Garbade & Silber). Because brokers outside of New York were able to trade on Wall Street with the advent of the new technology, localized markets became more and more obsolete. The country lost at least 40 different markets once all brokers had access to the New York Stock Exchange (Sobel).


The stock ticker's different inceptions had their own flaws, however. Laws's original gold price-indicator was not able to travel very long distances and required a local battery to operate. Calahan and Edison improved on these issues, but still faced the same problem of two-way communication. The mass mediated message of stock prices