Auto Controlled Elektron
This venture put forth by Mergenthaler
Linotype Company during the early and
middle 1960’s was so futuristic with
innovation – it was most difficult for the
ordinary typesetter to perceive just where
Mergenthaler Linotype was going with this
creation. (Was advertised that the Frank
Lloyd Wright Design Studios was involved
as for streamlined looking machine.) I live
near Madison and Spring Green, Wi. in area
of many Frank Lloyd Designs. I’ve viewed
Mergenthaler had many innovations over
the years – but none painted blue.
This machine stood far and above other
competitors (was only one - Intertype) with
safety guards, blinking lights, micro
switches, electric drive clutch and brake,
push button start/stop buttons and more.
This monster didn’t have an assembling
elevator! It did have an assembler for
matrices that moved the assembled line
from right to left with the touch of a lever.
No more pushing down with the right hand
and lifting with the left.
[I was a machinist apprentice in early 1960’s
and remember “old timer” operators placing
their left hand first finger under the auxiliary
rail and lift the assembler to deliver the line
of matrices left to the first elevator for casting. Then with their right hand they reached down to a make
shift peanut can ash tray hooked to the right side of the keyboard to grab the “cig” for a puff of smoke.
Their black machines were coasting at 6.5 lines per minute.]
Couldn’t do that with this NEW BLUE Monster – that was punching type high slugs down the knife block
chute onto the type galley at 14.5 lines a minute. I heard someone vociferate that Sunday afternoon in
March 1964. “Maybe the 9th wonder of the world”. A demonstration for users, owners and machinists in
1964 @ Linotype Company Office, 531 Plymouth Court, Chicago, IL. – Now a Condo.
I heard there was a black Linotype, Model 31, displayed in the lobby of the condo building.
The NEW BLUE monster has been designed so automated functions may be added at a later date to fit
customers needs. (Like buying a bare bones vehicle and adding features after purchase.) For instance,
the customer has only magazine selection and mold selection on their new purchase. Later they can add
automated mold selection [six mold disk], knife block and ejector lever settings.
more . . . check back later.
Two options are offered with this system for handling copy on a mixer machine with line-by-line changes
of font size, such as occur in classified ads. (One line of 8 point followed by several lines of 5 point.) The
first system uses an advertising mold, with automatic quick open of the knife block in response to a tape
signal. The larger font is cast with an overhang and ejected with the knife block automatically opened to
clear. A blank slug is then cast to underpin the overhang. This has been the standard system used in the
The automated machine, with its ability to change molds, makes another option possible. The mixing
signals are used to control the mold selection system. Each font is cast on its own mold, automatically
selected as the machine mixes between the two magazines (line-by-line). This arrangement has the
advantage of not requiring the underpinning, as well as providing solid slugs without the relatively fragile
As an additional advantage the casting heat load is distributed between two molds, with better slug
quality in both sizes. Under average conditions, the speed of copy production is about the same for
either "quick-open" (first option) or "mold-mixing" (second option)operating.
The system of "mold-mixing" is not applicable to "in-line"
mixing composition, such as food store ads or book work
where two fonts are mixed in one line.
by a cam
a ton of
When the "standard" automated package, option No. 2,
which consists of Magazine Elevating, Mold Selection and
Automated Knife Block is used, only one tape signal is
required for selection of the magazine along with associated
mold selection and knife block. Settings are preprogrammed
into the system, and are variable for each setting depending
upon the users requirements. This preprogrammed set-up
may be easily changed as required. The selection of anyone
of the four magazines, plus the associated mold and knife
block settings, may therefore be called out with only one tape
The Automated Magazine Elevating circuitry is connected in parallel with the manual magazine elevate selection circuitry
and also to the standard electromatic safeties which will
prevent magazine movement if the safeties are not cleared.
Additional safeties are provided to prevent magazine
elevating if the Elektron is not in its normal position, i.e. the
delivery lever and the carn shaft not in normal position.
Unlike previous Elektron operation, which cancels the
magazine elevate signal if the channel entrance or assembler
entrance safeties are activated, the automated circuitry
contains a memory which retains the signal. In the event one
of the safeties operate, a red reset lamp will light to alert the monitor. When the safety has been cleared,
the reset button must be depressed to allow the machine to continue the automated change.
Teletypesetter Operating Units 75B. According to Mergenthaler field engineers, the LOU operating unit was not the most reliable auto setter on the market. Cuneo had 3 Model 29 mixers with TTS units and were most pleased with the results of those machines. Cuneo Press previously (1964) added a former Fairchild TTS installation engineer to their staff as Head Machinist of Automation. jer
As on a standard Elektron mixer,
magazines must be in upper magazine
position before elevating or fanning.
Therefore, when an automated magazine
elevate signal is received, the magazine
pair will automatically be moved to the
upper magazine position before initiating
the automated magazine elevate
If the A/C/E configuration selected is with
Automated Magazine Selection only, the
control cabinet is not included since the Magazine Selection chassis is mounted on the Elektron and is
connected to the Elektron power supply in the Power Central.
The mold selection servo mechanism
is hydraulically actuated, motor driven
mechanism that is initiated by a tape
signal. In operation, a split mold
turning shaft is driven forward
hydraulically to disconnect it from the
standard drive and connect it to the
automated mold selection driving gear
. The drive motor will then turn the
mold disk until the correct mold is in
position. At this time a latch will lock
the mold selection mechanism in
position and the hydraulic system will
allow the split mold shaft to disengage
from the automated mold selection
gear and engage the normal mold
A safety is provided to prevent the
cam shaft driving clutch from
energizing while mold selection is in
Note: The last
statement above: “A safety is
provided. . .” would seem to cover
all movements of the mold, knife and
magazine being selected before
casting another slug took place.
Mergenthaler forgot about the time it
takes electric signals to reach
relays, TTS operating units stop
magnets, safeties, servo motors,
electric clutches and other
things. The problem is: It requires
more milliseconds for hydraulic fluid
to flow through a hose than it takes
electrical signals to travel down a
wire informing TTS stop magnet, drive
clutch stop relay and more to
Setting short lines, for Wisconsin
Bell Telephone Yellow Pages, we found
that the Split Mold Turning Shaft is
moved forward with hydraulic pressure
to choose a different setup for
mold, magazine and knife setting.
The “change setup”
signal stopped the TTS
operating unit from selecting
matrices. The ACE
completed casting the last line then
wait until all mats were cleared from
the distributor bars (mixer) before
allowing mold, magazine and knife
settings to change.
The ACE started to assemble the next line when mold, magazine and knife settings were complete.
However the Split Mold
Turning Shaft was NOT completely in
the normal (mold turning alignment
pin not totally engaged with slide
shaft) rear position due to the slow
return of hydraulic fluid to the
quadder sump pump reservoir.
The ACE machine was allowed to
deliver a line to the first elevator
jaws signaling the machine drive
motor to cycle the main cams to move
forward allowing the first elevator
to rest on the vise cap.
the same time the mold turning was
supposed to present the correct mold
to the matrices. It could not perform
this function because the split shaft
alignment pin was not engaged into
the split shaft collar — thus causing
the machine to be “out of time.”
The alignment pin had already left the normal position, however on its’ second cycle did engage into the alignment hole on the collar on the split shaft. It would turn the mold disk about 1/4 turn when the mold slide would make its forward movement to present the correct mold to the matrices hanging in the first elevator. The mold disk studs could not engage the stud blocks located on the vise frame. This prevented the forward thrust micro switch from sending a clear signal to the ACE timer switches. The timer system immediately issued a stop/hold signal on the main drive clutch motor. Everything came to a halt — including the TTS operating unit.
Why did this occur? Electronically the signals and safeties would take but a couple of nanoseconds to deliver their signals to the many relays and safeties on the ACE.
Problem was that hydraulic
fluid didn’t flow as fast as electric
signals did, which would prevent the
Split Sleeve from reaching it’s rear
Mergenthaler Solution: Punch
10 rubouts into the TTS paper tape or
give it a long tape feed signal. As
far as we were concerned that
solution didn’t get it. What if we
had a mechanical malfunction of
another kind? Messing with flowing
fluid in a hose and a sliding iron
co-mingled with electric signals — we chose to go electric.
My Solution: We
machinists created a black mystery
box which would inject a time delay
of ?? number of seconds to delay the
x-fer of a electrical signal.
Milwaukee had much manufacturing of automated equipment in the middle 1960s. A couple electronic
control companies on Greenfield Ave. in South Milwaukee had just what we were
looking for. 1 - 6”x 6”x 8” black aluminum box, 1 - Variable Time delay relay, a
couple 6 prong Jones Plugs, 1 - off/on switch and 1 - red light.
We then had to send a signal from the collar on the Split Mold Turning
Shaft collar with a micro switch.
The relay (right) was placed inside the box which sat on the back step of the ACE
machine. A plate was fashioned for Micro switch (left) and mounted in
the area of the Split Mold Turning Shaft collar. The roller on the micro switch was
adjusted to be energized when the face of the shaft collar pressed up against it when
collar reached it normal position.
We tapped into the wire harness that sent signals throughout the ACE. Diverted a
couple of them to the relay and then back to other signal wires. We then dialed the adjustment on top
of the relay to “hold” the stop magnet on the TTS operating unit for 2 seconds after the shaft collar
reached its home position — fully engaged onto the mold turning collar alignment pin.
§ § § § § § § §
Machinist’s Safety Switch
This feature was added to the back of the ACE machines which was Designed by the machinist
department. It was a small plate that contained three lights and 2 switches.
One red light would flicker each time a matrix broke the light beam on the Shaffstall mat detector.
(See contents LINK for Shaffstall Mat Detector) That way we machinists would know that mats were
in fact being selected. The machinist’s dept. was 60 ft. behind the ACE machines.
The second light, blue, told us that the ACE was in normal driving motion — casting slugs of type.
One switch located under the blue light was used to stop the ACE machine. When doing maintenance
or repair on the machine, we could put a permanent hold (people
could push the start button on the front of the machine and
NOTHING would happen.) on the main driving clutch. We didn’t
have to jump down, go around the machine and hit the stop switch.
The third light, white, alerted us that the TTS operating unit stop
magnet was in a stop or hold condition. A second switch located
under the white light allowed us to place a stop/hold on the TTS
operating unit. This was a life saver in that when clearing out a
distributor stop we could control the TTS unit from the back of the
machine. Clear out the mats from the channel entrances etc. then
return mats to the second elevator bar and into the magazines. All clear, just flip the switch and the
TOU (Teletype Operating Unit) would continue assembling matrices.
§ § § § § § § §
Leonard Smith, Mergenthaler Mid-West Sales Eng. (1943-1970) viewed what we did with great
interest. He vociferated his observation back to the Chicago, 531 Plymouth Court, Chicago, Il. district
office. Henry Cieko, Mgr. of Chicago Office and Earl Porter, the matrix engineer arrived at Wis. Cuneo
one day for a show and tell, however, I never heard a word from Mergenthaler top management, but I
sure got a lot of questions from their field service engineers, George Remly and Ralph Poor.
By that time, 1970, I’m sure Mergenthaler was done developing anymore hot metal products and
focusing all their efforts on that new word — “Phototypesetting.”
§ § § § § § § §
The other notable person who showed up, and I can’t remember his name, was the Chief of the U. S.
Printing Office, Washington DC, about 1968. He obtained permission to enter the restricted area at
Wisconsin Cuneo Press, Milwaukee, to view this auto mold turning etc. operation. The U.S. Printing
office had, at that time, had a total of 35 machines. Comets, Models 31’s, 36’s, 29’s and 8’s linecasting
Eventually the United States Printing Office purchased ACE mixers and contacted me for kits etc. that
I created and sold with installation instructions.
§ § § § § § § §
The auto ejector is provided as part of the
mold selection. Its adjustments are the
same as for non-automated Linotypes.
This attachment is not new to the
Mergenthaler Linotype machine. Been
around for quite some time.
Pictured to the left are controls for a 6
pocket mold disk.
The Thermex mold cooling system allowed
for only 4 molds to exist on a single mold
A different ejector selector plate was
Automated Knife Block
The auto controlled Knife Block mechanism
utilizes standard knife block parts and
adjustments. In addition there is a new
automatic turret and drive mechanism
which replaces the turret handle on a
manually set knife block. In operation, a
hydraulic system lifts the turret, a motor
then turns the turret until the proper
banking screw is in position. At this time a
latch locks the mechanism in the selected
position, the motor will turn off and the
hydraulic system allows the knife block to
settle back onto the selected banking
A safety is provided to prevent the carn
shaft clutch from energizing while the knife
block setting is in progress.
Automated Quick Opening Knife Block
The automated quick opening
knife block provides for opening of
the knife to a new position in
response to a tape signal, timing the
opening to correspond to the ejection
of the line in which the signal
occurs. After the line has been
ejected, the knife block will close
to its normal position. The quick
opening settings are preprogrammed
An Autoshift code, followed by three numeric codes which describe the
measure in points, is used to select the line
measure. If, for instance, a line measure of
12 picas, 6 points was desired, multiply 12
12 (points to a pica), giving 144 points. Add
the 6 points, giving 150. Therefore,
punched on tape would be the codes for
Bell, 1, 5, O.
Settings are always made against a
positive latch in the increasing direction.
When a shorter measure is called for, the
mechanism will overshoot by
approximately 6 points and then reverse to
the selected measure in an increasing
The Mohr Saw may also be controlled with
the automated line measure device.
Note: Wisconsin Cuneo did not have any ACE machines with Line Measure Control.
It was accomplished in another way with very little expense.
§ § § § § § § §
Year = 1969 –
Teaching ACE Elektron and IBM 1130 Computer to communicate
When setting different length lines for telephone yellow page ruled box ads we would set the manual measure control to the longest line length -14
picas. (6 pt. Bell Bold business name, then fill with top
align 1 pt. rule mats to the length of 13 picas - plus we
added a ½ pica space for a buffer against the last matrix
rule.) That line was quad left on the slug. The makeup
person would miter the top line to 12 picas. (the rule mats
were 1, ½ and
¼ pica respectively.
The ad “guts” were a combination of 8, 7 or 6 pt. type on
an 8 pt. slug – 11 pica long. All lines centered on slug. (
§ © ®
characters available in magazine)
The phone number line was indented 1 EN space on both ends and contained at least 1
spaceband for justification. The IBM 1130 computer was programmed with the maximum space
we wanted the band to justify. After deducting all character widths in the line, the computer added
the correct amount of LAD (leader aligning dash) mats to fill to the phone number for the 11 pica
Ad makeup people would have sufficient 6 pt. material (1pt line rule) all mitered to 3, 6, 9, 12, 15
and 18 pica rules for the bottom and left/right side of the box ad.
The computer was programmed to output TTS perforator codes to change the ACE Elektron:
● bell code + 1= 14 pica line measure, 12 pica liner, 6pt mold/knife change for top line
● bell code + 2= 11 pica line measure, 11 pica liner, 8pt mold/knife change for “guts.”
TTS monitors would program the plug board (inside the ACE control cabinet) to access:
● mold #1= 14 pica liner with 6 pt. knife setting
● mold #2= 11 pica liner with 8 pt. knife setting
It took the monitors 15 minutes to change the 4 magazines, 2 mold liners and program the ACE
plug board with the correct settings to match the molds with knife settings and 4 different
magazines of matrices.
It sounds like a lot of work, however, we had sufficient tape punched to run one ACE 5+ hours
two times a week for Yellow page work. The amount of type produced for ADs alone kept 5
people on 1st, 2nd and 3rd shift busy – 5 days a week doing changes to standing ads and
assembling new ones. From October to December 15th. Wisconsin Bell assigned 2 supervisors
to each shift to monitor and answer questions from makeup people.
And we’re not even talking about the White Page Listings. Residential and Business. That was a
different group of makeup people, 2 shifts a day. The primary responsibility on the second shift
was to get the “Daily Addenda” printed and delivered to the Grey Hound Bus depot for delivery to
various points around Wisconsin. Number changes, new customers, listed and non-list numbers
and more had to be printed on loose leaf pages. The copy came from Ma Bell @ 4:30pm and had
to be on the Grey Hound by 8:30pm. Depending on the unpredictable number of changes etc.
there could be 8 to 15 people working the same project.
Wisconsin Bell’s markets were: Green Bay, Appleton, Neenah-Menasha, Oshkosh, Sheboygan,
Milwaukee + Metro area, Racine-Kenosha, Madison, LaCrosse and Eau Claire. Wisconsin Cuneo
had hundreds of standing phone book pages of customer listings and Yellow Page Ads.
§ § § § § § § §
The ACE machines did NOT have to raise the assembly elevator up to release the line delivery. The assembly took place (in line) on the same level as the intermediate delivery channel and first
elevator jaws, when the machine was in the normal stopped position.
At end of the line two codes in the TTS paper tape (return/elevate signals) signaled the Electron
timer to start a delivery cycle. The TTS unit stopped selecting matrices, another signal was sent
to the star wheel jogger to push the last matrix inside assembler gate pawl then a third signal
allowed two short line delivery fingers to rotate forward and downward behind the last matrix
(right end of line) in the
line. The first short
finger moved left
pushing the line of mats
against the long delivery finger and
continued on thru the
channel into the first
elevator front/back jaw.
As the line delivery was
moving left, a second
short finger remained
next to the star wheel
waiting for the TTS operating unit to
assemble the next line.
The machine started the
main drive cams to start
forward rotation which lowered the first elevator to rest on the vise cap. Upon return of the line
delivery (long and short finger) the two short fingers would be rotated upward and backward
while the long finger buffered up against the left end of the line being assembled.
§ § § § § § § §
There was no such thing as a vise automatic rod (which
would cause the machine to stop if the first elevator
didn’t seat properly) with a knife edge that would slide
under the mold disk dog knife edge.
There was a piece of flat tapered steel mounted on the
inside of the first elevator that actuated a micro switch
which in turn signaled the machine timer relay that the
first elevator head was in fact seated on the vise cap
holding the matrices in place for the forward thrust of the
mold disk. If that vise automatic switch didn’t get
energized — the machine came to a halt.
Verticle Start Lever ?
There is no vertical start lever, automatic stop fork and lever or clutch rod attached to the fly
wheel with (C18) clutch leathers riding the inside of a flywheel on these Elektron machines. It’s
all done with electric clutches attached to the drive motor.
Screw “A”, First Elevator (side view) = Banking Screw which rests on Vise Cap.
Screw “B” is adjustment screw for actuating Vise Auto. Switch — MS-37 (above)
MS-36 and MS-37 work together. Both switches are
wired in series. If MS-37 does NOT get energized by the
time MS-36 rides up on cam “1” (right) machine will halt.
These 2 switches, some wire and a set of contacts in
one 9 contact relay replaced the Vise Automatic Rod,
Vertical Start Lever, clutch collar, clutch toggle and other
Clutch Lever Has Returned ?
By popular demand, Mergenthaler installed a fake
starting – stopping handle and mounted a micro switch
behind it. Due to old habits, when people wanted to stop
a machine, they would automatically reach for the clutch
handle to stop the machine.
Pulling this lever forward on Elektron DID NOT start the machine.
Keyboard – one of many places to Start/Stop the Elektron
To start the machine, it required the operator to depress the Ready Button then the Start Button on left side of
keyboard. (also see auto knife block
photo above) START, READY &
STOP lighted buttons. Below
them are buttons for the upper/lower
rail control. A little
further down you can see the upper
end of the line delivery handle. It
does what the elevate handle on
other machines. Causes a line of
matrices to be released for
delivery of line (right to left) to the first elevator jaws. The Elektron machines have no first
elevator to raise up to allow the line delivery to move the assembled line from right to left.. A little
upward pressure on the handle causes a micro switch to send a signal to the delivery slide short
finger to be released and push the line of matrices to the left against the long assembler slide
finger and into the waiting jaws of the first elevator.
The long vertical lever to the right of the UR/LR buttons is the space band selector which
energizes a micro switch to send a signal to a relay mounted behind the space band box.
Above the start button is a pump stop toggle switch. (momentary off switch if pushed to right – permanent off if pushed left) Electric Signal is sent to solenoids mounted near the pump stop
lever located on top the metal pot and under the plunger arm that forces the pot plunger to push
hot (475 +/- degrees) molten lead metal up the crucible throat then pot mouthpiece and into the
back of the mold. This lead is forced into the awaiting line of matrices (casting molds with letters,
numerals and other characters) to be cast onto the top edge of the body of lead called a
§ § § § § § § §
MHYDRAULIC RAISING, LOWERING AND FANNING OF MAGAZINES
The four standard ninety-channel Linotype magazines which the
Elektron accommodates can be elevated or fanned with push
To bring a specific magazine into operating position, the button for
the magazine position is depressed. The magazine selected will be
moved by hydraulic action to the proper position.
To fan the magazines, the FAN button is first depressed and then
the button for the particular magazine to be removed. The
magazines are then automatically raised or lowered to the proper
position and fanned by hydraulic action, with the pre-selected
magazine in position for removal.
The elevating, lowering and fanning of the magazines are fully
protected by safety devices.
About the Safety Switches
Under the cover (above pic) are 4 Cherry Switches for testing position of magazine being used.
The TTS tape issued a magazine change.
and the 4
1st. Check to make sure magazine frame is in Upper Magazine position.
2nd. Wait until distributor clear light signaled OK to proceed.
3rd. Move entire 4 magazine frame ¼” up. This checked assembler and channel 3rd. entrance switches to make sure all matrices have cleared and are inside the magazine.
3rd. If OK, ACE would issue a command to cam “reed rack” out of the way.
4th. Machine would proceed to move to selected pair of magazines.
5th. Continue composing the next line of type.
Assembler Swinging Front
Matrices take only a short drop from the
magazine - compared to the older black
This improves assembling particularly at high
speed, and reduces wear on the right-hand
side of matrices during the assembly of the
The assembler belt, which was made of vinyl
rubber had to be hand washed in hot water
and soap two or three times each 7 hrs.
When transpositions [teh for the] would show
up on proofs the first thing we machinists
would do is wash the assembler belt with hot
water and soap. That solved 99.5% of assembler transpositions. Our machinist apprentices had real
clean hands now and then during the work shift.
These belts were quite expensive. $ 15.00 – compared to the cloth belts the black machines used. $4.50.
In order to expedite the belt cleaning we had five extra assembler belts hanging on a hook near the
Elektrons. Changing them took 5 minutes.
Washing them was another story. By the time an apprentice would wander down to the washroom to
clean the dirty belt, stop and jaw-jack with others along the way – that took 15 minutes.
When apprentices started whining about having to clean belts I changed the rules when the belts got
cleaned. Take 5 minutes for each belt on the “dirty belt” hook plus 5 minutes for hand cleanup time - then
punch out. No overtime for belt cleaning. Problem solved.
§ § § § § § § §
LINE LENGTH INDICATOR AND SAFETY LIGHT
An eye-level Line Length Indicator recessed in the swinging front
includes a red pointer which sets to
the measure desired. A second red
pointer moves with the line length
indicator slide showing the space left for justification.
If a line is overset, the delivery of
the line will be prevented and the light will glow red.