Creed and Company Limited. The First 50 years
(Reprinted from the Spring 1962, Golden Jubilee issue of "Creed News" and later reprinted in BARTG Datacom Summer 1997.)
Although this outline of Company history dates from 1912
(the year of our incorporation under the Companies
Act), our story has its beginning around the turn of the century.
Fired with enthusiasm, he threw up his job and set sail for Britain, determined to put
this and other ideas into
practice. Working in a garden shed in a suburb of Glasgow - with the aid of an old
typewriter bought for fifteen
shillings in a Sauchiehall Street auction sale - his ideas began to take shape. Although
he had no engineering
training, and despite repeated advice to "return to your key", he persevered and
finally came up with a
prototype keyboard perforator. When the late Lord Kelvin saw this first effort, he told Mr
Creed there was no
future in the idea, even though at that time morning newspapers were covering week-old
foreign events as
current news, due to the poor communications of the day. Disappointed but undeterred, Mr
Creed pressed on,
and what eventually emerged was a tape perforator operated by compressed air and
controlled by a keyboard
Its superiority over the "stick perforator" then in current use attracted the attention of the GPO, who in 1902 placed an order for 12 machines. By now Mr. Creed had turned his thoughts to the development of equipment that would improve message handling on the receiving side. In the Wheatstone system, as then generally employed, the incoming signals were recorded on a moving strip of paper by a pen and ink device. This merely recorded the signals as a series of dots and dashes, and again a skilled operator was required to decode the message. With the aid of a small team of mechanics Mr Creed produced two further machines. These were a receiving perforator (reperforator), which recorded the incoming signals in a perforated tape identical with that used at the other end of the line for transmission; and a printer which accepted the received message tape and decoded it into plain language printed characters on ordinary paper tape. Thus was born the "Creed High Speed Automatic Printing Telegraphy System".
A small factory was opened in Glasgow in 1904 and remained there until 1909, when Mr Creed moved to Selsdon Road, South Croydon, along with six of his skilled mechanics from Scotland. Little headway was made at first. The scepticism which had attended earlier development efforts now showed itself in a marked disinclination on the part of potential customers even to try out the equipment, let alone purchase it. But gradually sales resistance was broken down and the machines began to find promising, if limited, user acceptance.
1912 Creed, Bille & Company Limited is incorporated under
the Companies Act of 1908. It was known
as Creed, Bille, as at that time Mr Creed was working in association with Harald Bille, a
well known Danish
telegraph engineer. Mr Bille became managing director of the Company, but met his death in
a local railway
1914 The start of
the First World War focused attention on the need for communications
equipment and within days the Company was called upon to supply two
sets of equipment to the Central telegraph Office in London. These
machines were used on circuits to Southampton and Grimsby, and
successfully handled a large volume of message traffic in connection
with the landing in France of the British Expeditionary Force.
1919-21 Activities in the field of wireless transmission were resumed after the War with the design and manufacture of the first high-speed pneumatically operated radio keys. These were high-power (300kW) jobs and saw service at the famous Rugby wireless station and in Government departments. Also produced were low-power (5kW) high-speed radio keys. Another activity at this time had to do with the Stentorphone, a public address system. The electronic valve amplifier had not then appeared on the scene and the Stentorphone provided means whereby gramophone records could be amplified through a sound-box consisting of a comb-valve which vibrated a column of compressed air. A number were made and used at exhibitions, open-air concerts, etc.
The most important order received in this period for telegraph equipment came from the
Press Association in
London. Faced with the growing problem of ensuring that news reached all subscriber papers
a key feature of news agency operations - The PA decided to investigate the possibility of
a 24 hour private
Most of the machines used in the system were greatly improved versions of the original
equipment arising from
important developments carried out during the years 1919-21. In common with the original
both the subsequent receiving reperforator and printer depended on compressed air as the
motive force for
punching and printing. Installation of the equipment was therefore a complex and costly
business, since a
For certain applications it became desirable to have messages printed in page form, and a page printing facility was subsequently brought out as an alternative to the original tape printing arrangement. Also introduced was a new keyboard perforator together with an automatic tape transmitter, as the latter had not been made by Creed up to this time. These new and improved machines were well received and came into widespread use both in the UK and overseas. Company payroll reaches 250.
1923-6 The teleprinter now came into the picture with the arrival from the USA of the Morkrum Teletype machine. This operated on the now familiar 5-unit start-stop signaling code and was a "direct printer". This means it recorded messages directly from the incoming line signals, instead of from tape via a reperforator as in the Creed system. This machine represented competition with a capital "C" and the Company lost no time in meeting the challenge. The result was the introduction of a separate keyboard transmitter and a receiving page printer, both operating on the 5-unit start-stop teleprinter code.
In 1924 an order was received from the Central News Agency in London for a number of the machines to provide a news distribution service to various Fleet Street newspapers. It was not long before the Exchange Telegraph Company, the British United Press and others had printers working in Fleet Street. The first printer, the Model 1P, was soon superseded by the improved Model 2P, a number of which are still in operation to this day. This marked the start of Creeds business in the teleprinter field, and practically all subsequent development work had to do with 5-unit systems.
Meanwhile, Donald Murray, a New Zealand farmer turned journalist, had invented the Murray multiplex system - another 5-unit code system - which had become popular in India, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Russia. Murray made a valuable contribution to telegraphy by rationalizing the allocation of the combinations of the 5-unit code to the characters of the alphabet on a frequency-of-occurrence basis. His arrangement of the code, in which the most frequently used letters of the alphabet are represented by the smallest number of holes in the tape, has since become standard practice. Murrays Multiplex System and other telegraph patents were acquired by Creed in 1925 and these machines were produced at Croydon for many years. They were "Rolls-Royce" jobs and some of them are in service to this day. A Murray Keyboard Perforator is, in fact, still being used at Telegraph House. In 1926 came the introduction of the Creed Model 6S Automatic Tape Transmitter, the ancestor of the present standard Teleprinter Auto-Transmitter.
1927 By this time the GPO had decided to adopt a uniform telegraph system based on voice frequency signaling, giving 18 telegraph channels on a circuit that would only carry one channel on the system formerly used. The separate keyboard and receiver page printer units which comprised the Creed teleprinter at that time were not suitable for the new service which was intended to handle public telegram traffic. For such work it was also necessary for messages to be printed on a tape from which all unwanted signals could be readily removed before it was gummed down on to the familiar form for delivery to the public. This led to the development of the Model 3 Tape teleprinter, which was the first Creed machine produced as a combined start-stop transmitter-receiver. The Model 3 teleprinter incorporated a number of features that were novel at the time and was the first Creed machine to go into volume production, many thousands being sold in the years 1927-42.
1928 In July of this year Creed & Company became part of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation. This event, coinciding as it did with Creed’s growing activities in the teleprinter field, marked an important step in the development of the Company. Foreign markets, which until then had been relatively uncultivated, were opened up on a world-wide basis and co-operation with other IT&T System Companies became possible. A new era of expansion began.
1930 Mr. Creed, who had stayed on as chairman of the Company, now
retired from the scene. But almost
to his death at his Croydon home in 1957, at the age of 86, his inventive mind remained
schemes with a substantial sum of money received upon disposal of his interest in the
Company to IT&T, his
ideas ranged far and wide, and even included a mid-ocean "Sea Drome" based on
his earlier project for an
"unsinkable" boat. None of these schemes materialized, but his name will remain
in the history of
communications as a pioneer in the field of automatic Morse telegraphy.
Manufacture of marine radio transmitters was now started on behalf of the International
Marine Radio Company
of Croydon (a fellow IT&T Associate). This activity continued for a number of years.
Also produced for another
Associate Company, Standard Telephones and Cables Limited, was a range of totalisator
1936-9 Development attention now turned to a high-speed "stock ticker" for the Exchange Telegraph Company and this machine was completed shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. Identified as the Model 10 Tape Teleprinter, it was novel in many respects, but only a comparatively small quantity was made, although a number saw service with the Royal Air Force. The Company now has over 800 employees.
1939-45 With the clouds of war gathering darkly on the horizon, it became evident that existing production facilities at Telegraph House would no longer be adequate to meet the unprecedented demands that could be expected from the Fighting Services. Also, it was appreciated that Croydon was a vulnerable target for air attack. So, in 1939, production of the Treforest, South Wales, plant was ordered. Initially providing some 18,000 square feet of floor space (today it is over 50,000 square feet in area), it was equipped with a balanced plant so that in the event of Telegraph House being knocked out, it would at least be able to ensure a small output of equipment. However, despite the attentions of Hitlers Luftwaffe, who presented Croydon with some 2,600 high-explosive bombs, countless incendiaries and scores of flying bombs, not one direct hit was scored on Creed premises.
Both Telegraph House and Treforest pressed on jointly with round-the-clock production of
tens of thousands of
machines, concentrating on the Model 7, standardized by the British Services. Also
produced in quantity was a
variety of special equipment, including aerial navigation instruments, cipher machines on
messages were sent, Morse apparatus for aircrew training and automatic bomb sights. The
Company had a
major role in the design and production of the latter which helped in the sinking of the
German Navy battleship
Another expansion of plant facilities came in 1950 with the occupation of a 17,500 square feet location at Progress Way, Croydon. This location handles the overall processing of customers orders for machines and spare parts, incluing packing and shipment and related billing activities. An important new Company activity was started in 1953 with the formation of the Creed Rental and Maintenance Organization. Established as a service for customers wishing to lease (instead of purchasing them outright), and have the maintenance done for them, it is currently looking after 3,000 units of equipment in the field. Service is at present provided from eleven centres in the UK, augmented by a mobile unit and a special apparatus group responsible for the introduction of Creed equipment to new renters. Another popular, and related, service is that provided by the Technical Training School at Croydon, established some years previously. This exists to provide comprehensive maintenance training on Creed equipment for customers own mechanics, and has a current intake of 250 trainees per year, including a large number from overseas.
The expanding role of teleprinters in private business and industry began to impose many new demands. Machines had to be capable of operation by relatively unskilled personnel, while the noise, bulk and appearance of earlier printers were becoming increasingly unacceptable. Equipment was required to be simpler and quieter, more compact and streamlined in appearance, offer a wider range of facilities and need less frequent servicing. The page model teleprinter was dominating the field and it was evident that while the "old faithful", the Model 7, could go some way toward meeting the new trend it was fast approaching the end of its development life. A completely new approach was clearly necessary.
1954 As an interim measure, the Model 7 was revamped as far as practical and emerged as the Model 54 Teleprinter. With its improved printing visibility, combined with numerous detail improvements and the introduction of such facilities as immediate printing, two-colour ribbon, reperforating attachment and an overall cover giving much quieter operation with better appearance, it quickly won favour with customers both at home and overseas. Some 6,000 have been delivered to date. At the same time work was started on the development of a radically new page teleprinter which was to form the basic unit of a fresh generation of machines.
This new printer was to be far smaller and lighter than its predecessors and be capable of operating at 100 words per minute (a 50 per cent advance in speed) with reduced maintenance, while offering facilities not previously available. The story of this important and now well-known machine - the Model 75 Teleprinter - will be told elsewhere, together with details of the numerous units of the Model 75 line that have since been developed: the reperforating (tape punch) attachment; printing reperforator; projector printer, film titler; printing card punch; and tape reader attachment. Meanwhile, two interesting developments had taken place. One of these was the manufacture of facsimile communication equipment under license from the Western Union Telegraph Company in the USA, a pioneer in this field. Starting off with the Desk-Fax Transceiver, a compact push-button electronic machine for the error-free transmission and reception of all types of written, printed and drawn material over distances of up to 25 miles, the equipment range was subsequently extended to provide a variety of machines and facilities of appeal to business users. Several thousand of these units are now in service.
The other development was the impact on our operations of the new-born data processing industry, stimulated by the introduction of electronic digital computers. Seeking equipment to feed problems into and out of their "electronic brains", computer engineers turned to Creed. And they liked the look of what they saw. Here was equipment in quantity production, and therefore economically priced, which could, moreover, readily be adapted to their immediate needs. Particularly attractive to them was our work in the field of punched paper tape equipment, since many of their ideas were tape oriented. One snag, however, was the slowness of the equipment, since electronic computers required the use of machines capable of speeds far in excess of those encountered in telegraphic communications, for which Creed equipment was, at that time, exclusively designed. Still, they reasoned, it would suffice until something better came along. Few computer engineers believed that Creed machines would have any real future in their developments, since it was thought that our interests, and capabilities, did not go beyond the communications field. This was challenge and the Company decided to accept it. To date the value of orders received for data processing equipment is in excess of £2,000,000 and orders booked in 1961 accounted for 17 per cent of our total new business in that year.
1955-9 Our first true data processing machine (as distinct from a modified unit of telegraph equipment) was the Model 25 Tape Punch. Capable of recording computer output in punched paper tape at a speed of 33 characters per second - five times faster than an ordinary teleprinter punch - it ushered in a whole new line of Creed machines. In rapid succession came verifiers, readers, comparators, reproducers and interpreters, all designed specifically to meet the needs of the data processing industry.
enlargement of production facilities now took place with the
occupation of new locations at Progress House, Croydon, and Burgess
Hill, Sussex, together providing over 53,000 square feet of floor
area. The former accommodates the Special Apparatus Division,
established and equipped to handle the assembly of custom-built
"specials", equipment systems and other items for which
production-line techniques are not appropriate. Repair and
reconditioning of customers’ equipment is nother activity at
this location. Also based
at Progress House are the Technical Training School and the administrative offices of the
Maintenance Organization, together with some general production facilities
1959 Another dramatic advance in tape punching speeds came with the introduction of the Model 3000 Tape Punch. This hit the headlines with its "impossible" speed of 300 characters per second (3,000 words per minute), more than 40 times the speed of tape punches produced only five years before. There is no faster paper tape punch available anywhere in the world, and the Model 3000 is being delivered in increasing numbers for service in leading electronic computer installations.
1960 Meanwhile, in addition to continuing development of such individual units of computer peripheral equipment, attention was turned to the design of complete, self contained data processing systems. The result was "DORIS" - the Direct Order Recording and Invoicing System engineered for Shell-Mex and BP Ltd., and installed for field trials at their Royston petroleum distribution depot in Hertfordshire.
Designed to take over the clerical work associated with the booking and delivery of customers orders, "DORIS" can accurately record telephoned orders from up to 3,000 customers covering a mixed range of petroleum products, and automatically produce all related documents, included extended invoices. It can do all this under the control of a single operator at the rate of one order every 60 seconds, and at the same time yield statistical and accounting data in byproduct tape form for further automatic processing. The "DORIS" project is an important milestone in that it has convincingly demonstrated the capability of Creed electro-mechanical and punched tape techniques to handle complex clerical operations with speed and accuracy and at a much lower cost than electronic systems. It has excited the attention and interest of data processing specialists the world over and promises to open up a significant new chapter in the Creed story.
1961-2 A unit of punched tape equipment developed specifically for the "DORIS" system was a punched tape information store, the latest version of which is now coming into general production. Identified as the Model 2000 Tape Store, it features a capacity of up to 240,000 alpha-numeric characters with an average access time of only 7 seconds and a read-out speed of 10 characters per second. This unique newcomer to our product range promises to find extensive application as an economical "memory unit" in data systems requiring quick access to static information such as names and address, product descriptions, etc.
In 1961 came a further extension of Company premises with the occupation of an area of Suffolk House, Croydon. This location provides office accommodation and a showroom for the Data Processing Group and the Public Relations Department, and also houses financial accounting and purchasing personnel.
Another unique unit of data processing equipment that has now reached the production stage is the Model 1000 Output Printer. Although rapid advances have been made by several manufacturers in the field of computer output printing, the machines they have produced are line printers, designed to print a complete line of type in one operation. This method enables extremely high speeds to be attained, but a penalty is paid in design complexity which is reflected in the high price of such line printers. Using novel hydraulic principles with "mosaic" printing by means of a 5 x 5 stylus matrix, the Model 1000 Printer retains the simplicity, economy and flexibility of serial (character-by-character) printers, yet is capable of operating at 100 characters per second (1,000 words per minute) - 10 times the speed of a conventional teleprinter. The attractive speed/price ratio offered by the Model 1000 makes it suitable for use with both large and small-scale electronic computers, while applications in the field of high-speed data transmission are also envisaged.
Also scheduled for production in 1962 is the Creedomat tape punching/reading electric typewriter. Featuring various combinations of Creed punches and readers in association with an IBM electric typewriter, the Creedomat offers a wide range of facilities of special interest in the growing number of office automation systems based on the punched tape technique. Applications also include input and output operations for electronic computers, high-speed data transmission systems and other communications services.
The years 1912-62 have seen telegraphy and Creed & Company grow up together. Primitive
systems equipped with crude, faltering apparatus have given way to sophisticated,
communications networks that span the globe, providing quick, sure contact over vast
distances. Creed &
Company has grown from humble obscurity to a dynamic, forward-looking organisation that is
one of the world
leaders in its field. Today we stand on the threshold of a second industrial revolution.
Ahead lies an era of
unprecedented technological advancement in which applications for teleprinters and data
equipment appear to be almost unlimited. While justly proud of our past achievements we
can also look forward
with confidence to the opportunities and challenges that the future will bring.
These first 50 years are indeed only the beginning.
Copyright George Hutchison, W7TTY & Bill Bytheway, K7TTY -- November 2011