In 1867, Edward A. Calahan, an employee of the American Telegraph Company, invented the stock ticker. This machine revolutionized the way stock market information was disseminated to investors by enabling almost real-time reporting of stock prices and transactions.
The ticker technology democratized access to market information. Prior to its invention, only those physically present at the stock exchange – or very close by – were privy to real-time market prices. Everyone else received their data at a substantial lag, often to the point where it was no longer useful.
The ticker, however, changed everything. Using telegraph cables, the ticker distributed real-time prices across America. Proximity to the NYSE was no longer a barrier to accessing market data. By 1905, 23,000 offices paid for ticker services in the United States.
A fascinating aspect of the ticker tape’s history is Thomas Edison’s involvement. Edison worked on improving the ticker tape machine in the early 1870s, leading to the development of the Universal Stock Ticker. This invention, which improved the speed and efficiency of the original design, was Edison’s first commercially successful product and provided him with the financial resources to establish his own laboratory.