TTY – Deaf People Can Order a Pizza, Too!

Back in the day, deaf people would drive all the way to their friends’ homes to talk to them. Then, the TTY was invented. Back then, it was called a TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf).

A teletypewriter looks like a word processor. It has a keyboard and a display screen. They actually look pretty ancient when you see them now.

I think the only drawback of teletypewriters is that both the sender and receiver need to have compatible teletypewriters. When I was younger, I had a few deaf friends (this was before we all had cell phones). They had TTYs, but I couldn’t afford one. I was pretty depressed until we discovered relay services!

The information you send with your TTY is converted into signals and travels through the telephone lines (that’s why you both need to have one).

To make a call with a TTY, you turn on your TTY and dial your friend’s number on the regular telephone. Then, you place the telephone’s headset onto the TTY coupler (which is like a computer modem). A pattern of lights on the display screen tells you that someone answered the TTY.

TTY
Photo courtesy of:
MassRelay

You would then type a greeting, and continue your conversation. When you are finished saying something, and you want your friend to reply, you would type “GA” (without the quotations), which means “Go Ahead.” When you are finished with your whole conversation and are going to hang up, you would type “SK”, which means “Stop Keying”.

To answer a call on your TTY, you would first notice that someone was calling because of a flashing signal light. You would then put the telephone headset on the TTY and turn the TTY on. Then, type your greeting.

Your greeting could be: “This is Michelle.” Make sure to type “GA” after that. The person calling you would then give their name, and your conversation will continue.

And what does the conversation end with? That’s right! “SK.”

Believe it or not, most public telephones have TTYs.

TTY
Photo courtesy of:
Maryland Department of Transportation

The next time you use a public telephone (which may be never), see if it has a teletypewriter. Then, you can actually see what one looks like.

Even though TTYs have pretty much been replaced by cell phones with text messaging, I still find them fascinating.

Especially since only a few years ago, not many people had cell phones. I had actually considered buying a teletypewriter. I’m really glad I didn’t. Have you ever tried fitting one of those in your pocket?


“Maryland Welcome Centers and Rest Areas.” Maryland Department of Transportation. 26 Aug. 2008 (https://www.mdot.state.md.us/ADA/SHA%20Welcome%20Centers).

“Frequently Asked Questions.” MassRelay. 26 Aug. 2008 (https://www.massrelay.com/interiorPage.php?pageID=1007).

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