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Radioteletype (RTTY) is a telecommunications system consisting originally of two or more electromechanical teleprinters in different locations, later superseded by personal computers (PCs) running software to emulate teleprinters, connected by radio rather than a wired link.

The term radioteletype is used to describe:

  • either the entire family of systems connecting two or more teleprinters or PCs using software to emulate teleprinters, over radio, regardless of alphabet, link system or modulation,
  • or specifically the original radioteletype system, sometimes described as "Baudot".

In some applications, notably military and government, radioteletype is known by the acronym RATT (Radio Automatic TeleType).[1]



Landline teleprinter operations began in 1849 when a circuit was put in service between Philadelphia and New York City.[2] Émile Baudot designed a system using a five unit code in 1874 that is still in use today. Teleprinter system design was gradually improved until, at the beginning of World War II, it represented the principal distribution method used by the news services.

Radioteletype evolved from these earlier landline teleprinter operations. The US Navy Department successfully tested printing telegraphy between an airplane and ground radio station in August 1922.[3] Later that year, the Radio Corporation of America successfully tested printing telegraphy via their Chatham, MA radio station to the R.M.S. Majestic.[4] An early implementation of the Radioteletype was the Watsongraph,[5] named after Detroit inventer Glenn Watson in March 1931.[6] Commercial RTTY systems were in active service between San Francisco and Honolulu as early as April 1932[7][8] and between San Francisco and New York City by 1934.[9] The US Military used radioteletype in the 1930s and expanded this usage during World War II. The Navy called radioteletype RATT (Radio Automatic TeleType) and the Army Signal Corps called radioteletype SCRT, an abbreviation of Single-Channel Radio Teletype. The Military used frequency shift keying technology and this technology proved very reliable even over long distances.

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