Obsolete Technology: Elliott Addressing Machine, 1952

I ran across this while looking through some slides that I think must have come from the Association of Rice Alumni office:

1952 Elliott Machine ARA

It’s labeled on the back as an Elliott Addressing Machine and it’s not hard to understand why the staff would be excited enough to take a picture of it. (Not to mention play with it—I can make out “Edie” and “Carol.”) I have zero idea of how it worked.

Warning: I’m in Portland all week and I’m way behind on my email. Please forgive me–I’ll catch up sooner or later.


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11 Responses to Obsolete Technology: Elliott Addressing Machine, 1952

  1. marmer01 says:

    It used stencil cards made on a typewriter and forced ink through the stencils to print on the envelopes. It was quite a thing in its day before databases and peel-off labels. This is not the same machine, but it explains the basic Elliott principle: http://www.circuitousroot.com/images/artifice/letters/elliott/elliott-addresserette-instructions-1949-07-1200rgbjpg-50pct.pdf

  2. Richard A. Schafer says:

    Elliott at one point made computers. This model looks like it was programmed using the plug wire boards, perhaps using them to generate the letters to be printed instead of a typewriter-created stencil. Using plug wires to program business machines was common until probably the 1960s. Rice had a IBM 514 card duplicating machine that could be controlled by plug wires when I was there as an undergraduate. The 514 took punched cards and produced new punch cards that duplicated the originals, and could be programmed to do things like move the contents of a column into a different column, or to force a particular value into a column. One of my first projects working for ICSA was to generate a utility that would emulate the IBM 514, which if I remember correctly was called IEB514R.

    • Mark Williamson says:

      The IBM 407 Accounting Machine over in Ryon Lab used a much more elaborate plugboard programming system, but mostly Rice used it to print the punched cards output by the 1620 computer, which had no attached printer. Somehow punching computer output on cards, running them across the room to the 407, printing the contents, and discarding the cards made sense to us back then.

      • Richard Miller (Hanszen '75 & '76) says:

        This was very common for unit record shops to do. These devices were the office automations tools from the late 20s until the mid 70s. (Some companies still use them). My first boss @ BCM managed the business accounting processing for BCM and had used the full gambit of unit record devices to do it prior to the arrival of the H120 computer system (Honeywell’s competitor to the IBM 1401). My boss retained the ability to program the plug wire board

  3. Karen says:

    Welcome to Portland! I was wondering if yesterday’s post was because Houston’s having rain like we are, but I guess it’s because you’re in our weather. The picture’s a nice view of the Newport Seafood Grill floating restaurant on the Willamette River. I also like seeing the construction on the new Light Rail bridge in the background. It’ll help date the picture for any future historians!

  4. Dan McCormack says:

    As recently as 1980, I recall the Rice Players having something similar. Addresses were on silk-screens inside a 2″x4″ cardboard frame. The cards would feed through the machine, ink would be pushed through the screen, and postcards would be printed.

    At least, I think I remember something like that…

    • Michael E. Leishear says:

      I used to work for Dymo Business Systems from 1974-80. Dymo bought out the Elliot Addressing Machine Company along with the Farrington credit card imprinting company. I sold the Elliot machines very successfully for over 6 years. I have very fond memories of the company which was purchased by Eselte of Sweden in ’79. I used to have an old vintage 1930’s machine in a storage locker in an apartment my wife and I lived in while I worked at Dymo.

  5. Have a safe trip!

  6. grungy1973 says:

    Little River Cafe?

  7. Dave says:

    This is not quite as obselete and people think. My company up here int he coal regions of PA still uses this machine for addressing. The typewriter is long gone and we substituted a varityper machine to cut the stencil cards. Works quite nice. Just as intended.

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