Lorenz Lo15 teletype: the elephant in the back seat

by | Jan 30, 2014 | teletype | 22 comments

I thought that my library exhibit might lead to some tips on typewriters, but no one contacted me until yesterday, just before the closing of the show. Her brother-in-law was moving and had to sell some stuff, she said, including a typewriter called a Lorenz.

The name rang a distant bell and I recognized it as a brand of teletype, or teleprinter. I was curious and agreed to come out and see it (it was located just 15 minutes from my daughter’s school). That’s how I ended up with a 60-pound passenger in my back seat.

I don’t know where I’m going to put this, and can’t imagine that I’ll keep it permanently, but how could I resist? They offered to give it to me, but I insisted on paying them a little something.

This is the case, or cabinet, that fits over the mechanism. It’s all very clean. The owner got the whole thing for free from a business that was ready to throw it out years ago.

I don’t think this label is correct. This page dates a similar machine at 1955, which fits my impression of the paint, keys, and styling. However, the model was in fact in use during the war, according to the German Wikipedia page on C. Lorenz AG, which claims that the Lo15 model was introduced in 1932, based on an American design.

Here’s a video from someone who hooked a Lorenz up to a laptop and made it work. That’s well beyond my skills!

My machine is a Blattschreiber or “page printer.” Collector Michael Brandes has a more elaborate machine, the Lo15B, including a phone dial. Was the Blattschreiber intended only for receiving messages, not for sending them?

I welcome information from readers who understand this device better than I do.


  1. Anonymous

    Woah, that's a formidable-looking machine…

  2. Ted

    Well, the video seems to indicate it has some sort of rudimentary serial interface that can be mapped to USB, and probably runs the old 5-bit baudot protocol, or better yet, 7-bit ASCII. I would be surprised if there aren't already print drivers in existence – at least for UNIX. (and I think you're a Mac user, so in a sense, you're running BSD UNIX [sort of])

    You know you want to put that in your university office and make it print out Typosphere blogroll summaries as new posts are indexed. :D

  3. Richard P

    Oh, that would be delicious.

    It deserves to be in the hands of someone like you who has a chance of understanding it.

  4. Richard P

    By the way, here's a video that shows a similar device at work and gives a clearer view of the mechanism.

  5. Mark Adams

    What an extraordinary machine. Excellent video. Look forward to hearing more.

  6. Ton S.

    What a fascinating behemoth of a machine. I also look forward to your updates on it, especially after watching the vids.

  7. Scott K

    I have a suspicion that you're going to end up with a crushed T11 and T12 vertebra just holding this thing.

    Bend your knees when lifting, good sir. Otherwise you may soon find yourself enjoying traction.

    Now, this is one heck of an interesting machine. If I arrived home with that, I'd be bound to upset someone else in this household. Mind you, I'd itch for the challenge on how to attache it to my computer.

  8. Ted

    wow, check out the print head on this one. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this. It's a box of spring-loaded type that shifts around in front of an electronically-fired hammer.

  9. Richard P

    Holy wackjob! If I had one of those I could sit in front of it mesmerized for hours.

  10. Anonymous

    Yeah, you need a furniture dolly for that beast!

    There was a thing like this at the last Maker Faire I attended – it was printing someone's Twitter feed in real time. You could send it a tweet and watch it print. :p

  11. Dwayne F.

    Ted, you are a total Nerd. And I mean that in the best way possible.

    Richard: I hope someone can help you get this magnificent beast working. It is so clean and shiny and looks like it belongs in an alternative future.

  12. Steve Snow

    Richard that is truly a monster. I'll be dashed if it isn't somehow capable of mincing sausage meat and dehulling oats simultaneous with whatever else it does.

  13. Art

    I challenge L4 L5.

  14. RobertG

    Impressive in every sense of the word.
    This would be magnificent to print out the email correspondence (or comments on a blog posting).
    Fascinating to watch that video of it in action, looks like this one is so clean it should be able to work (that big elco may be worrying as those age badly, but can be dealt with).
    Was wondering what the 1,5 Sperrschritt could mean, just found out there's a full user manual of this beast online even that explains all. The net still amazes… :)

  15. Richard P

    I am guessing that 1,5 Sperrschritt = spacing that's extended by 50%.

    I haven't found the full user manual — please provide a link!

  16. RobertG

    Nope! That's what I thought but it's the stop-bits definition between characters. 5-bits encoding. Awesome machine.
    Die vollstandige technische Unterlagen konnen hier gefunden werden: http://www.webrx.de/telex/lo15.pdf
    (Deutsch-sprachige Anleitingen und Unterlagen sind kein problem, vermute ich :-)

  17. Scott K

    Ohhhhh….. The nurse's back zone!

  18. Jim Pennington

    that print head is amazing. there's a really angry wasp inside …or a woodpecker out of control.
    nope.. AND a woodpecker out of control

  19. Charles

    The Lo15 is the German version of the Teletype Corp Model 15 that was made in large quantities from 1930-1963. They must have been licensed to produce it as Lorenz was owned by ITT at the time. Over time Lorenz improved and modified the Mo 15.

  20. Richard P

    Thanks very much! I have sold my Lorenz to someone who understands it better than I do, but I’ll check out the manual.


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