Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Inventor of the autocue dies at 91

Hubert Schlafly, best known for developing the autocue, has died aged 91

Hubert "Hub" Schlafly, a key member of the team that invented the autocue and rescued soap stars, broadcasters and politicians from the embarrassment of stumbling over their words on live television, has died at 91.

Mr Schlafly died at Stamford Hospital, Connecticut, on April 20, after a brief illness, according to the Leo P Gallagher & Son Funeral Home, which handled the arrangements.

His funeral was held on Tuesday in Greenwich, where he was a long-time resident.

He did not use a teleprompter - the US name for autocue - himself until he was 88, while rehearsing his speech for induction into the Cable Television Hall of Fame, said Thomas Gallagher, a close friend.

Mr Schlafly helped start the TelePrompTer Corporation, eventually becoming its president and accepting an Emmy Award for the company in 1999 - a few years after winning one himself 1992 for his work in developing the first cable system permitting subscribers to order special programmes. He held 16 patents, Mr Gallagher said.

"Hub Schlafly was the cable industry's most innovative engineer and, at the same time, one of its ablest executives," Charles Dolan, chairman of Cablevision, said. "Whether you were his friend or competitor, he was always congenial and supportive and probably had more friends than anyone."

St Louis-born Mr Schlafly graduated from Notre Dame University, where he studied electrical engineering. He worked for General Electric and the MIT Radiation Laboratory before joining 20th Century Fox in New York City in 1947.

Actor Fred Barton Jr wanted a way to remember his lines and approached Irving Berlin Kahn, the nephew of composer Irving Berlin and vice president of radio and television at 20th Century Fox. Mr Kahn went to Mr Schlafly, then the director of television research.

The result was a monitor facing the person appearing on screen and rolling a script at reading speed - was named the TelePrompTer, which made its debut in 1950 on the soap opera The First Hundred Years, Mr Brown said.

"It revolutionised television and improved the quality of on-air performers," said Jim Dufek, a professor of mass media at Southeast Missouri State University. "It also made the politicians look smarter because they were looking right into the camera."

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