The Burdensome Wire Transmission Equipment Photojournalists Had To Carry In The 1970’s

Jul 27, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

The Burdensome Wire Transmission Equipment Photojournalists Had To Carry In The 1970’s

Jul 27, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

Join the Discussion

Share on:

upiThere’s no doubt many of us (myself included) take for granted just how easy we have it when it comes to making a photograph, much less making available to the world to see. Thanks to the digital revolution, we can go from exposing an image to posting it online in a matter of seconds. Obviously, it hasn’t always been so simple. Just ask any photojournalist that was working back in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

To be a photojournalist in the 80’s meant lugging around a “portable” darkroom everywhere you went so you could process and print your photos, which was a necessary step to get them sent off your boss. Before there was email (as we’ve come to know it in modern times), press photos had to be “wired” from the field to the photo desk using a special photo transmitter such as the United Press International’s UPI 16-S

UPI 16-S Portable WirePhoto Transmitter

YouTube video

The UPI 16-S took around 8-9 minutes to transmit a single black and white photo and upwards of 25 minutes to transmit a color photo. That is assuming, of course, you had a telephone line that was decent enough to get the job done.

“…transmission times were painfully long using an analog drum transmitter, such as UPI’s 16-S transmitter…The photo spun on a drum while a laser moved slowly across the print producing an audible analog signal consisting of beeps.” remembers photojournalist and former 16-S operator, Chris Wilkins.

The UPI 16-S was most popular in the 1970’s through the mid-1980’s, but the United Press International were actually still using one of the machines up until 1991.

Hasselblad Dixel 2000

After a testing during the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984, Hasselblad came to the rescue in 1988 with a mass production of their Dixel 2000 photo viewer and wire transmitter. The Dixel allowed photographers the ability to scan their negatives and positives, preview the photos, crop, add caption information, before the machine transmitted the images to photo editors. No longer did photojournalists have to worry about carrying around the necessary dark room equipment needed to make prints, but the Dixel was also able to transmit the images in a fraction of the time as the UPI 16-S–the Dixel could send a black and white image in only a few minutes!

“From the 1920s through to the early 1980s, newspapers pretty much relied on the same workflow and the same technology. Photojournalists would travel to locations armed with a small portable darkroom, and the analogue “wirephoto” concept allowed transmission of processed, printed images – one at a time, slowly – to a picture editor’s desk, via wirephoto operators on the other side who would receive a print – itself having to be processed in a darkroom essentially. The equipment was bulky, fragile and the process of sending an image was measured in minutes – sometimes, hours.”

About a month ago, one of these bad boy’s popped on eBay for a price of £1,749.99 (that’s about $2,713.01 USD). The product description describes the machine as “…something a bit special, a bit rare, and a bit of a pain.” The listing also goes into great detail about how the Dixel works and makes a pretty convincing case for it’s importance to photojournalism history–check out an archived copy of the auction, here.

YouTube video
YouTube video

[ via Slate ]

Filed Under:

Tagged With:

Find this interesting? Share it with your friends!

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

Join the Discussion

DIYP Comment Policy
Be nice, be on-topic, no personal information or flames.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 responses to “The Burdensome Wire Transmission Equipment Photojournalists Had To Carry In The 1970’s”

  1. Lars Stokholm Avatar
    Lars Stokholm

    And at that time it was already more than 100 years old ?

  2. MHesketh Avatar
    MHesketh

    When I started the video my dog looked at me like “What the heck are you doing?”.

    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      Haha! Yeah, my pup went totally bonkers, I can only imagine what that must sound like to a dog’s ears.

  3. Jay Heinze Avatar
    Jay Heinze

    I want to make some dubstep out of that

  4. Pinky Shahana Avatar
    Pinky Shahana

    Collection of previous day’s information is very creative work. I like it most.

  5. Pinky Shahana Avatar
    Pinky Shahana

    Excellent tips and idea. Glad to see your tips. Thanks a lot.