In the late 1940s, a young television engineer was called upon to figure out a way for actors to better remember their lines. Hubert “Hub” Schlafly wasted no time with the assignment, devising a motorised scroll in a half-suitcase that was placed just off camera. The teleprompter – and decades of assured newscasts and stump speeches – was born.
Schlafly quickly left his job at 20th Century Fox to realise the potential of his creation; by 1950, he and two colleagues had founded the TelePrompTer Corp and sold their first unit to CBS. In 1952 Herbert Hoover became the first prominent politician to embrace the teleprompter, using it to address that year’s Republican National Convention.
After 20 or so years in the business, Schlafly left TelePrompTer Corp after his partner became ensnared in a bribery scandal. In his wake he left a number of technological advancements in both his original design and the larger field of cable television, and his post-TelePrompTer professional life was full as well; Schlafly was instrumental in developing satellite transmission of programming. He won two Emmys for his technological contributions to television – one in 1992, the second in 1999 – and in 2008, at the age of 88, was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame.
He read his speech off a teleprompter. [NY Daily News: Photo credit: Paul Desmarais/AP]