Computer History: Lexitron Word Processing Computer Systems Origin & History (1969-1984) AutoScribe

(improved audio) Computer History topic: “Word Processing” Origin of the Lexitron Videotype word processing computer. A unique tribute to the historic Lexitron Videotype Word Processing computer, from its conception in 1969 to its production in 1972, and its successful growth and eventual purchase by Raytheon Company. Models: Lexitron 911, Lexitron VT 1202, Lexitron VT 1303. (Run Time: 10 mins, with 3 min Photo Gallery)

With sincere thanks to the following for their invaluable historical input and support: Stephen L. Kurtin and Carver A. Mead (Founders) Brad Tallent, a former Senior Lexitron technician.
Chet Michalak, Raytheon Historian, Raytheon Company Ms. Brandie Gerrish, Corporate Public Relations, Raytheon.

With additional thanks to: Bill Degnan – Vintage Computer.net

Rhode Island Computer Museum

Computer History Museum

Hack42 Museum gallery, Netherlands

(Also See full Acknowledgements in the video)

In the late 1960’s engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs Stephen L. Kurtin, Arnold J. Goldman, and Carver A. Mead developed ideas for major improvements in word processing. They conceived a breakthrough concept built around a full page text display. In 1969, they co-founded AutoScribe, the company that was to market the first electronic word processing machine. In addition to many other advancements, including direct-interactive editing, the machine used a new “hybrid vector display” cathode ray tube technology. * * On October 7, 1971, AutoScribe changed its name to Lexitron, and moved to a large facility at 9600 De Soto Avenue, Chatsworth, California.

The “Videotype 900” series was introduced in 1972, with the “Videotype Model 911. Thousands of Lexitron’s were sold, with the U.S. Government, law firms, and large businesses being some of the best customers. Competition from other major vendors, a series of economic recessions, and the rise of home computers with word processing software, proved a major challenge to the dedicated word processing industry. Raytheon sold Lexitron to TELEX Corporation in 1984.

* * ADDED: Additional Technical Info:
The 9xx systems all used Assembler as the programming language and many PROMS to store the assembled binary code. Even when they used an 8080 processor for the coms cards (“Interact”), they still used Assembler. The VT series all continued with assembler. It was Intel 8080 based, so porting over the time-tested coded blocks was pretty straightforward. It is also interesting to note that the memory card in the VT-11xx and VT-12xx machines came with 32 Kb (not Gb) of RAM and only upgradeable to 64 Kb (64 Kb was the maximum addressable by the 8080 microprocessor). That was for both program and data (the displayed page) concurrently. So that means that program storage in RAM had to be very efficient. There was a later version of the VT-1303 that that had a paged-96 Kb RAM board for their “advanced” records management system (RMS).


Video Compiled by the Computer History Archives Project (CHAP)

(see also, the 1972 “Lexitron” articles)

Several Viewer Comments from prior version:
(Please note: This video was revised and re-uploaded due to changes in YT audio music track copyright restrictions. Unfortunately, YT is unable to allow transfer of comments from one uploaded video to a revised version. We selected a few of the comments and re-posted them here. The originals are archived.)

“I was so surprised when I found this video. Thank you for gathering the information to put this together. Working for Lexitron was the best working experience I ever had. I still talk with friends I made working at Lexitron. Lexitron folks were the best of the best. The Videotype was a game changer for the front office. Replacing typewriters with a monitor was not an easy transition for some. We were a dynamite team of sales and support, the best in the business. :-) “

“I loved watching this video. It brought back so many memories. My father, Richard Gaffney became president of Lexitron in February 1980 after Richard Baily, chairman and president passed away. We had a Lextron in our home so I learned how to use it and eventually got a job in the Raytheon word processing department. I was hooked by computers! That lead to a job at Atex, a company that produced computerized systems for newspapers and magazines. I have stayed in the technology industry every since.”

Music clips in the video:
Lilac Skies – Corbyn Kites
Love Aside – Patrick Patrikios
Straight Fuse – French Fuse
Spring Field – Godmode
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