Definitely, the earlier teleprinters, like Model 15 and even earlier could be put on a table. But for some reason the fashion shifted and most hard-copy terminals in the 1960s and 1970s used a special stand.


3 Answers 3


Yes. At my university, the undergrad computing lab had rows of tables with ASR33 and KSR33 teletypes, with the latter probably being in the majority.

I dispute the 'most' part of the question. I'd say that was quasi-normal where there was a single tty, say as a console terminal, but not when you had them in quantity.

For the most part, I don't really distinguish between ASR33 and KSR33, though of course I know the difference. Looking at photos, it seems that if you're going to make much use of the punch on the ASR33, then you'll need to position it such that a chad box can hang below the table level.

The Teletype Model 33 Technical Manual describes the stand as an optional accessory. I took a screen-shot of the relevant paragraph; below. Model 33 teletype manual

  • I wonder, if there is any photo on the net?
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 22:48
  • 1
    I couldn't find any 'university lab' photos but this photo of a 1900 console demonstrates why a desk was superior: 1960s and 1970s computing required something to support manuals, printouts, etc. (and the 'music stand' attachment on the teletype was inadequate). The 1900 console is really a modified teletype, with a few lights and switches added, but the point stands.
    – dave
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 3:50
  • I think, this ICL 1900 was shipped with a computer, so was not available for a separate purhase?
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 16:53
  • 1
    The ICL 1900 is a computer (or rather, a series of computers with model numbers 190x). But yes, the console terminal came with the computer, being specifically modified for that purpose. Except for one low-end model, the 1900 didn't have 'lights and switches' for operator control. Nevertheless, the sitting on a desk part is entirely normal, and this was the only photo I could find.
    – dave
    Commented Nov 9, 2023 at 23:53
  • That ICL 1900 installation looks like it is using the KSR-33 variant i.e. that wasn't an ASR-33 as it does not appear to have a papertape reader. Tried Google for any better photos and drew a blank. The photos that I did find with an ASR-33 all used the metal stand.
    – PDP11
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 12:51

The Teletype Model 33 ASR console did not work on a standard, flat desk. They were always sold with an integral metal stand. The metal stand on a Model 33 ASR was not optional. That is why they were commonly seen in computer installations with the metal stand. All online photographs of complete Model 33 ASR teletypes include the metal stand.

The reference is Teletype Corporation, 1969 Price List and Product Descriptions M28, M32, M33, M35:

Teletype Corporation
Product Descriptionn 50 (P.D. 50)
Change 11
Dated October 1, 1969
Teletype Corporation Model 33Cl Standard Duty Send-Receive Page
Printer Set with Tape Perforator and Reader with these features: 
Equipment Features and Components
Tape Reader Features
Power pack mounted in sheet metal stand
General Information
Set shipped completely assembled less stand and chad box
Stand: (Supports teletypewriter)

The stand was integral to the Model 33 ASR while it was optional for the RO and KSR variant.

The Bitsavers site currently has Technical Bulletin 273B , a copy of the Teletype Corporation:

Technical Bulletin 273B
Technical Manual
Manual Model 32 and 33
Send-Receive Page Printer Sets (KSR)
Receive-Only Page Printer Sets (RO)
Automatic Send and Receive Sets (ASR)

Other relevant Teletype manuals covered spare parts, wiring diagrams, etc. Unfortunately I could not find online copies of these other volumes of the maintenance set.

In the Teletype Corporation manual being used as the reference some variants of a Model 33 teletype could easily be used on a desk without the metal stand. Catch is the Teletype Model 33 ASR is the exception due to the papertape reader and punch.

A page printer only mechanism i.e. the Model 33 RO model (Receive Only) could have easily been installed on a flat desktop or table as it didn't have the papertape reader or punch. The Keyboard Send-Receive (KSR) model did not have a papertape reader or punch so a desk could be a viable option.

It is very likely that people sitting at a teletype on a desk would not know the difference between a Model 33 KSR they were using and the Model 33 ASR model. They can all be seen as teletypes from Teletype Corporation.

The component list of a Model 33 ASR always included a papertape reader and punch, this defined the Model 33 ASR from the other variants.

The Teletype manual described the RO and KSR variants that could be easily installed on a flat table. Therefore the metal stand is described as an optional extra. The reference is:

Section 1 Description
1-9. STAND (Figure 1-2).
Available as an accessory is a sheet metal
stand which will support the equipment at 
a convenient operating level. ...

At this point an assumption could be made that the metal stand was optional for all variants. The text continues:

It consists of chrome feet and an enclosure
which will house auxilary apparatus such 
as a Data Set and reader power pack. A 
removable rear panel provides access to this
enclosure. ... 

As the Teletype Model 33 ASR always included a papertape reader and punch it required the required the enclosure on the metal stand.

Clauses relevant to the Model 33 ASR are included in Section 2 Installation,

2-16 Power Pack Assembly, b.
The Auxiliary ASR Power Supply is 
mounted in the enclosure of the stand.

2-17 Tape Punch, b.
Installation of Chad Box Assembly (Figure 2-13),
(2) Push the box towards the rear until
a bent surface located at the front of 
the box engages the printer stand.

Additionally the manual includes:

Section 7 Principles of Operation
7-17 Tape Reader
The power pack is attached inside the
printer stand.

As the teletype use mains power (e.g. 110Vac) operator safety dictates that the papertape reader power pack had to be installed in an enclosure. This enclosure was incorporated into the metal stand. The metal stand was also required to mount the chad box for the tape punch. Note the metal stand is in the referenced figure for the punch in the manual.

Therefore the Teletype Model 33 ASR required the stand which was optional for the Model 33 series RO and KSR variants which were also documented in the Model 33 series manual.

An advertisement by Teletype Corporation for the Model 33ASR displayed the base model plus options. The Base Model for $840 included the metal stand, manual reader etc.

The question asked "Could the Teletype Model 33 ASR console work on a desktop, without the dedicated stand?" The answer is no.

Edit: I had a recollection of wiring in the metal stand for the Model 33 ASR but had disposed of my maintenance manual set back in the 1970s. Just recently found a relevant Teletype Corporation advertisement for the Model 33 ASR many months too late.

  • 2
    You can surely position an ASR33 at the left-hand end of a desk so that the chad box hangs over the end. Also- I think we happened to have ASR33s on our multiaccess system (no sense in not using what you have), but the reader/punch was not actually used.
    – dave
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 13:38
  • 1
    But you are of course correct in that if you have an ASR33 and want to use the punch, some arrangement for chad handling is needed. The question is therefore whether the OP really meant to ask about only the ASR model, as written, or about model 33 in general, as I and others have inferred.
    – dave
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 13:44
  • Was the punch mechanism detachable?
    – Anixx
    Commented Nov 11, 2023 at 16:09
  • So far I've only found Volume 1 online. The complete set includes the electrical and mechanical details. If you look at the Wikipedia page, Technical details section you can see the punch. These were mechanically driven so it did not make sense to detach them. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teletype_Model_33
    – PDP11
    Commented Nov 12, 2023 at 12:36
  • 'Did not work' (your opening sentence) seems a bit strong. AFAIK, only the punch wasn't readily operable, though I'm not sure whether it's a case of 'does not work' or 'makes a hellluva mess'.
    – dave
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 1:45

Could Teletype Model 33 ASR console work on a desktop, without the dedicated stand?

Yes, that was the most common version.

But for some reason the fashion shifted and most hard-copy terminals in the 1960s and 1970s used a special stand.

No, not really. Some variant of the quite common 'survivorship bias' might be at work.

Most images we see come from three sources:

  • Marketing material of back then systems - where, of course, the system to be sold takes the center stage, not a row of TTY.
  • Pictures people took of what was special - rooms full of TTY weren't.
  • Or today's image from some collection/museum setup where a standalone ASR again looks way better than some additional desk and a desktop version. Not to mention that it also takes less space, which at exhibitions is a premium.

Last but not least,

  • use of a TTY for/with a computer was a niche application. The majority was bought and used as what the name says: As teletypes.

So what these images are showing is everything but the average work situation.

  • 1
    I was hunting round for a picture of my university terminal room, but it seems like that was too boring to waste film on. The only photo I have is one of a friend of mine looking gleeful as he used the new 300bps (ooh!) DECwriter.
    – dave
    Commented Nov 8, 2023 at 20:37
  • 1
    Per Teletype, the stand was optional. See my updated answer. The installation part of the Tech Manual says "Mounting Printer on Stand (if used)". I assume putting it on a table required no instruction :-)
    – dave
    Commented Nov 10, 2023 at 18:09
  • 1
    @Anixx note that Model 33 teletypes were not necessarily ASCII devices. The ones I used had a subscript-10 character, I think with code 126 decimal.
    – dave
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 1:41
  • 1
    At one time I worked at a reseller of IBM Selectric conversions and these were setup for ASCII. Luckily I never had to do any of the conversions.
    – PDP11
    Commented Nov 13, 2023 at 4:51
  • 1
    Since this debate apparently can't be laid to rest, here is some video of an ASR33 working (as per the question asked) on a desk or bench. I don't dispute whether a stand was always sold with the ASR33, or that punch use would be inconvenient without it. But the teletype works on a desk.
    – dave
    Commented Mar 16 at 23:09

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