Joseph Hell
Rudolf Hell(2)

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Rudolf Hell

by C. Robat

19 December 1901 Eggmühl, Germany
11 March 2002, Kiel, Germany;

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Principal papers
  Fax and Scanner
See Also
  Fax, scanner


Developed technology that led to the fax and the color scanner,


Hell rebuilt his business in the 1940s after his factory in Berlin was destroyed during World War II.

Hell's landmark invention was a machine for transmitting text that electronically broke up letters into a stream of dots reassembled at the receiving end, in effect the first telefax.

The commercial success of his 1929 "Hell Recorder" allowed him to found his own company.

The technology was less prone to poor reception than telex transmissions, making Hell's machines popular for news agencies, the post office and police departments. In the 1920s, he also invented an image scanning tube for televisions and a radio-beam flight-path finder that is considered a forerunner of aircraft autopilots.

During World War II in Nazi Germany, Hell worked on encoding machines. After the wartime destruction, he resumed business in 1947 and came up with inventions that revolutionized the graphic arts.

An electronically controlled engraver unveiled in 1954 made photo publishing easier for newspapers, and an early version of the color scanner followed in 1963. Hell also was a pioneer of electronic digital typesetting in the 1960s, which ushered out the traditional method using lead.

In 1980 Hell unveiled his "Chromacom" electronic image processing system. (4)

Hell sold his Kiel-based company in 1981 to German industrial giant Siemens. It was later merged with Linotype AG to become Linotype-Hell AG, which in turn was taken over by German printing press maker Heidelberger Druckmaschinen in 1996.


Chronology (3, 4)

1919-1923 Studies Elektrotechnics in München.
1923-1929 assistent and co-worker with Professor Max Dieckmann in München.
1925 Invention of Cathode Ray Tube and operation of a television and transmit / send station for tv with Professor Dieckmann on a fair in München, Germany
1927 Promotion PhD, his thesis work dealth with a radio-beam flight-path finder for aircontrol, the fore runner of the autopilot.Presentation of a television reception and transmission station (together with Prof. Dr. Dieckmann) at the Trade Exposition in Munich
1929 Founds a business in Berlin-Neubabelsberg.
"Device for electrically transmitting written characters" (Hell Recorder)
Patent for a „Vorrichtung zur elektrischen Übertragung von Schriftzeichen" (HeIl-Schreiber).
1931 Development of new Morse code devices
The Hell Recorder is mass-produced by Siemens
The company moves to Berlin-Dahlem
1932 Hell demonstrates the electromechanical helical scan printing system.(3)
1934 Use of the Hell Recorder by news media
The company is completely destroyed in the Second World War
1949 Rebuilding his business in Kiel after WWII
1950 Development and manufacture of image transmission devices for the post office, press, police, and weather services
1951 Hell patents the Klischograph, a process for half-tone photo engravure. GL-Hell (start-stop machine) introduced. Used by the Bundeswehr (German Army) and the Bundesbahn (German Railways).(3)
1954 Elektronic Graphing machine (Klischograph), later also for color pictures.
1958 Colorgraph
1961 Hell invents the Helio-Klischograph (scanning and electromechanical engraving machine for gravure cylinders)
1964 Development of linotype (printing industry) - Digiset.
1965 Start of typeface development at Hell company.
1966 In July 1965 Hell presents the Digiset - a typesetting machine that works with digitally assembled typefaces
1967 Hell takes over the Siemens production plant in Kiel-Suchsdorf
1969 Segnatura AIGEC from the Union Italienne des Exports et Conseilleurs Graphiques

The company of Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell KG is converted into Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell GmbH with Siemens AG owning a majority stake
The launch of the DC 300 marks a global breakthrough in scanner technology
1972 Dr. Hell withdraws from actively managing his company and becomes chairman of the supervisory board

Bestowal of an honorary doctorate by Munich Technical University on February 9, 1973
1977 Presentation of the Gutenberg award by Mainz, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate, and the international Gutenberg Society on June 25, 1977 in recognition of his outstanding achievements for advancing Gutenberg’s art.
1978 Receipt of the Werner-von-Siemens Ring in recognition of his achievements in the natural sciences and technology on January 13, 1978
1979 Presentation of the ChromaCom electronic image-processing system
On the 50th anniversary of his company’s founding, Dr. Hell is made an honorary citizen by the University of Kiel
1980 "Chromacom" image processing system released
1980 Hell receives the Grand Cross for Distinguished Service with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany
1981 Sold his business to Siemens and retired and becomes honorary chairman of the supervisory board.
1981 Receipt of the FDI Medal "for contributions to the graphic arts industry"
1987 A total of 133 patents are associated with the name of Rudolf Hell.
1989 Rudolf Hell retires
Linotype AG acquires Hell GmbH from Siemens, giving rise to Linotype-Hell AG. Factory I is closed. Later, Factory III becomes the headquarters and, in 1996, the present site of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG in Kiel
1996 Acquisition of Linotype-Hell AG by Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG
1997 Since 1997 the Kiel site has belonged to Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, the world’s leading supplier to the entire print media industry. Kiel is where prepress technology is developed and produced and digital printing systems are assembled.
2001 December 19, 2001: Dr. Rudolf Hell celebrates his 100th birthday.


Honors and awards (4)

1962 Gold medal of the Vienna Photographic Society
1967 The West German government awarded him its highest honor, the Grand Cross of Merit for Distinguished Service.
Gold Medal of the Society for Printing of the CSSR
1968 In he was awarded the Ullstein Ring and the Culture Award of the city of Kiel.
1979 Honorary citizenship of the city of Kiel
1980 The Grand Cross for Distinguished Service with Star of the Federal Republic of Germany
1981 Dr. Hell is made an honorary citizen of Kiel, the capital of Schleswig-Holstein
1987 Admission to the Inventors’ Gallery of the German Patent Office in Munich.
2001 The old "Siemenswall" in Kiel becomes "Dr.-Hell-Straße"




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