IBM Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter

IBM MT/ST - 1964

MT/ST Restoration Page


The IBM MT/ST (Magnetic Tape/Selectric Typewriter, and known in Europe as MT72[1]) was a model of the IBM Selectric typewriter, built into its own desk, integrated with magnetic tape recording and playback facilities, located in an attached enclosure, with controls and a bank of relays.[2] It was released by IBM in 1964.[3][4] It recorded text typed on 1/2" magnetic tape, approximately 25 kilobytes per tape cassette,[2] and allowed editing and re-recording during playback. It was the first system marketed as a word processor.[4] Most models had two tape drives, which greatly facilitated revision and enabled features such as mail merge.[4] An add-on module added a third tape station, to record the combined output of playback from the two stations.

The MT/ST automated word wrap, but it had no screen, automated hyphenation (soft hyphens were available), or concept of the page; pages had to be divided and numbered by the human operator during playback. Instruction manuals taught the operator the importance of listening to the sounds of the machine during playback. The backspace key backed up the tape so a character could be recorded over; there was also a true backspace code, which allowed overstruck characters, like á. Insertion capabilities were limited: one could insert while copying from one tape station to the other; on a single tape one null character per line was reserved for insertions. A "switch code" instructed the playback to switch to the other tape drive. In a cumbersome way, points on the tape could be marked and jumped to.

The MT/ST was not electronic; it implemented its functions through a bank of electromechanical relays.

In 1967 IBM hired Jim Henson to produce and direct a short film on the MT/ST; the film, called Paperwork Explosion,[5] was scored by Raymond Scott.[4]

The first novel to be written on a word processor, Len Deighton's 1970 Second World War historical novel