In this article, the name of the inventor and founder of the Telefon Hirmondó, Tivadar Puskás, is translated into English as "Theodore Buschgasch". At the time this report was written, Budapest, along with Vienna, was one of the dual capitals of the Austro-Hungarian empire. This empire would collapse at the end of World War One in 1918, splintering into numerous small countries, with Budapest becoming the capital of an independent Hungary. (This article also appeared, somewhat modified, in the April 27, 1901 issue of Electrical Review as A Telephone Newspaper.)
World's Work, April, 1901, pages 640-643:




Stentor reading
wE are very apt to claim preëminence for America in the matter of inventions and of novel mechanical applications. But the Hungarians have had for eight years in actual working operation a development of the telephone of which few people in the United States know anything, even by report: the telephone newspaper, or Telefon-Hirmondo as it is called, of Budapest.
    For a quarter of a century one of the favorite dreams of the modern prophets has pictured the home equipped with apparatus by means of which one can hear concerts or listen to the latest news, while sitting comfortably by his own fireside. This dream is a fact to-day in Budapest. Music, telegraphic news "hot" from the wires, literary criticism, stock quotations, reports of the Reichsrath, -- the whole flood of matter that fills the columns of our newspapers may be had for the mere lifting of a telephone receiver.
    I went to Budapest last May, expecting to find this unique "newspaper," of which I had heard so much, rather a fad for a few score of people who had sufficient interest to keep it as a passing diversion. To my surprise I found a great journal with all the equipments of a first-class paper in a very lively city of nearly 600,000 people -- all the equipment, that is, except presses, paper, and printer's ink. Telefon Hirmondo has 6200 subscribers. The staff consists of a business manager, an editor-in-chief, four assistant editors, and nine reporters.
    This novel and interesting enterprise was started about eight years ago by Theodore Buschgasch, who had been interested in electricity and had patented some inventions. Mr. Buschgasch died March 16, 1893, and the present efficiency of the paper in all that pertains to its technique is largely due to Mr. Emil von Szveties, who is known on the staff as technical director. His skill and energy have produced great results. The concern is owned by a stock company with a capital of 600,000 florins (about $250,000).
    Telefon-Hirmondo occupies commodious offices on the third and fourth floors of a fine building on one of the finest avenues of Budapest. It divides the entire city into twenty-seven districts, and the main wire runs to each district, with branch wires to the houses. An accurate map of the system hangs in the central office. The company owns its own wires and plant throughout, and has the same right to place wires that is enjoyed by the telephone and telegraph companies.
    Twenty-seven copper wires run from microphone receivers in the Opera House to the central office. There the current passes through a patented device which increases the sound, its distribution to subscribers being regulated by another ingenious contrivance, also patented. The paper has 560 kilometres of wire and 6200 receivers; that is, one for each subscriber. Its spools may be seen everywhere under the cornices of the houses. The stentor or reader talks into a double receiver or 'phone, and the subscriber has two ear-pieces like those used by the telephone clerks. The sound of the reader's voice is greatly strengthened by the machine; and by making a receiver in the office the last on the circuit the management may at any time test the working of the wires. Reporters at desk
    It is most interesting to follow the actual "issue of the paper." A complete programme is tacked to the wall above each subscribers's receiver, and a glance at this tells just what may be expected at any hour, every day except Sundays and holidays having the same programme. The issue begins at 10.30 A. M. and ends about 10.30 P. M. unless a concert or some other night event is being reported, when it keeps on till later. Stock exchange hours are: A. M. -- 10 to 10.30, 11 to 11.15, 11.30 to 11.45.
    These reports reach subscribers several hours ahead of the evening papers. Quotations are given again in the afternoon, while reports of the Reichsrath and political news occupy the time from 11.45 to 12. When the Reichsrath is not in session, the time is filled by fuller reports of general and foreign news. General news of course comes all day at intervals. At 1.30 and at 6 P. M. is a brief résumé for those who missed the first news. From 5.00 to 6.00 there are concerts, varied by literary criticism, sporting events, and so on. Special items for Sunday are: 11 to 11.30--news, 4.30 to 6.00--a concert, and every Thursday evening at six there is a concert for children. The writer was invited to witness a performance in the concert room of Hirmondo, but unfortunately a violent thunder storm interfered with the use of the wires.
    Telefon-Hirmondo is independent in a sense not known in America; it has no leading articles, no editorials, no opinions -- unless its short notices of literature and art can come under the last head. The editor alone is responsible in case of action against the paper for libel. He has already had two or three lawsuits, but has won all of them.
    The mechanical processes of the paper are about as follows: The news (telegraphic, exchange, specials, and locals) is secured by the ordinary methods known in all newspaper offices. The reporter who has finished his assignment writes out his matter in ink and submits it to his chief, who signs it on the margin of the printed form. This signature fixes responsibility. A clerk then takes the copy and carefully copies it with lithographic ink on long galley slips. These are transferred to the stone so as to appear in parallel columns about six inches wide and two feet long. Two pressmen take several impressions on a roller-movement hand press. Common printing-paper is used. Each sheet is submitted to an assistant editor, who, with the aid of a copyholder, exactly as in proofreading, verifies its correctness. This sheet constitutes the file, and a duplicate is cut up into convenient strips for the use of the stentors. Each sheet comprises a certain part of the programme, and the whole number of sheets, with hour dates, constitute the day's file.
    The stentors are six in number in winter, when the paper is likely to be crowded with important matter, four for duty and two alternates. In summer four suffice. The stentors have strong, clear voices and distinct articulation, and the news comes from the receivers with remarkable strength and clearness. When all six stentors are present, they take turns of ten minutes each; if for any reason only two are on duty, a half hour is the extreme required of one reader. Concert room
    The only ladies employed on the staff are those engaged in the concerts, and Mr. Horváth called my attention to the fact that in no other newspaper office in the world could be found such a staff.
    In answer to my inquiry as to expenses, Mr. Horváth kindly assured me that I was free to investigate. His brief reply was: "We have no secrets." The current expenses are between 9000 and 10,000 florins per month (a florin is about 42 cents). This includes, of course, interest on the plant. The fixed charges, that is, those which must be met every day, -- telegrams, salaries, rent, etc., -- are about 7000 florins a month, varying in different seasons. The subscription price per annum is 18 florins, and for 6200 subscribers that part of the income is easily figured. Advertising receipts, from the nature of the case, are necessarily limited. It must be a paradise for advertisers, for every man's advertisement must be not only "next reading matter," but actually between items of interest. The charge is one florin for twelve seconds. The paper pays press rates for telegrams. The editor estimates that at the end of ten years the paper will have a valuable plant and privilege paid for, and be able to reduce the price, which is very low now, considering that the telephone in Budapest costs 150 florins per year. To an outsider, the concern appears prosperous. It employs in all about 180 people in winter and 150 in summer. This includes everybody, from office boy, linemen, and janitor to chief editor.
    Among the prominent subscribers of Telefon-Hirmondo are the Prime Minister, Baron Banffy, and all the other members of the Hungarian Cabinet; Maurus Jokaí, the famous author; the Mayor of Budapest. In fact, the paper appeals strongly to the more intellectual classes, and the capital of Hungary is a very wide-awake, enterprising city.
    The "aggrieved subscriber" sometimes wishes to stop his paper, but he can not do this as easily as a subscriber to a printed journal. In the first place, he has had a receiver put into his house at the company's expense and he has been obliged to give security for a year's subscription, one-third of which he pays when the instrument is ready for use. He pays the balance in two equal payments, at the end of four months and eight respectively. If the grievance is real, the editor tries to remove it by means of the soft answer that turns away wrath from the editorial head; if imaginary or absurd, the paper keeps the time-honored waste basket for its reception. The editors and managers receive the usual courtesies extended to the press in the way of passes and free tickets, and the paper exchanges with the city press. Unknown persons, such as temporary lodgers or boarders in hotels, can not, of course, become subscribers, but the principal hotels do subscribe, and their guests are free to use the instrument.
    Hirmondo is at present trying an experiment with "penny-in-the-slot" machines. The coin used is a 20-filler piece, worth about two cents in our money. Music by telephone, whether vocal or instrumental, still leaves something to be desired. The telephone timbre must be got rid of before music can be transmitted satisfactorily. The report of news, however, is highly satisfactory.
    So far as a stranger can judge, who is wholly ignorant of the language of the country, the enterprise is distinctly a success. The paper is so well known and has accomplished so much that it appears to be beyond the stage of experiment so far as Budapest is concerned. One strong point in its favor is its early reports. In this respect the paper has a strong hold, for it is able to issue an "extra" at any hour of the day. Moreover, invalids and busy people may get as much news as they want with little effort. Indeed, the plan has so many advantages, that we shall probably soon see it in operation on this side of the ocean, with the improvements that Yankee ingenuity will be sure to devise.