Rudolf Hell, German Publishing Inventor, Dies

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(AP) Rudolf Hell, a German inventor who pioneered technology that led to the fax and the color scanner, has died, officials said Thursday. He was 100.

The announcement came from the northern German city of Kiel, where Hell rebuilt his business in the 1940s after his factory in Berlin was destroyed during World War II. No cause of death was announced.

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 flightpath 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.

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. Hell retreated from his business over the past decade.

Born Dec. 19, 1901 in the Bavarian town of Eggmuehl, Hell excelled in physics and math in school. He held a doctorate in electronic engineering, a then-fledgling field he studied in Munich in the 1920s. The West German government awarded him its highest honor, the Grand Cross of Merit for Distinguished Service.

There was no information on survivors or funeral arrangements.

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