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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 World War II, he produced Hellschreibers 1 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 (DTP).

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. Rudolf Hell died in 2002, 100 years old, in Kiel (Germany), leaving a lifetime of inventions.

The most commonly known HELL company logo

  1. During WWII, Hellschreibers were also produced in large numbers by Siemens & Halske.

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 simply transmits a scanned image of a character, it only needs a narrow analogue radio channel. Being analogue, the text can still be recognized by the human brain, even under extreme noise conditions.

During WWII, Hellschreibers were used by the German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe. Although they were replaced in the 1960s by teleprinters and computers, some were used until the 1970s.

 More about the Hellschreiber
Fellhelschreiber in operational position

Cipher machines
It is little known that the HELL company also produced a number of cipher machines. As Germany was initially not allowed to develop cipher machines in the years following WWII, these devices were built under license from companies like Hagelin in Zwitzerland.

 HELL cipher machines
Close-up of the H-54

  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.
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Crypto Museum. Created: Tuesday 03 May 2011. Last changed: Saturday, 09 July 2016 - 11:23 CET.
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