27 April 2011
Engineer Hubert Schlafly Jr, inventor of a machine that changed show business forever, has died aged 91. The teleprompter or autocue, used by actors, newsreaders and politicians worldwide, helps them remember what to say.
Click to hear the report:
Almost anyone who's given a speech, led a meeting or acted on stage will recognise that sick feeling you get when you can't remember what you were about to say next.
More than half a century ago, a team of engineers at one of America's biggest film studios was asked to help solve the problem for Hollywood's stars of the moment. Hubert J Schlafly Junior was a key member of the group, which arranged for the actors' lines to be printed on a scroll of paper - which was put on a moving motor inside a suitcase next to a camera. The actors could glance at the paper if they forgot what was coming up.
The device was tested on the set of a US soap opera and adopted by the former US President Herbert Hoover - two years later. Updated electrical versions are still popular with politicians and actors around the world. In fact, the machine is used so widely that some have been criticised for relying on it.
According to a close friend, Hubert Schlafly didn't use a teleprompter himself until three years ago, when he was rehearsing a speech for his induction into the Cable Television Hall of Fame.
Charles Dolan, who chairs one of America's leading cable companies, has described him as the industry's 'most innovative engineer'.
Maddy Savage, BBC News
Click to hear the vocabulary:
- that sick feeling
extreme nervousness, a sense of approaching disaster
- half a century ago
50 years previously
- stars of the moment
celebrities who were most popular at the time
words that are said during a film, play or speech
- a scroll of paper
a roll of writing material
- glance at
quickly look at
- soap opera
regular TV or radio programme telling the story of a group of people in a dramatic or sentimental way
- relying on
depending on, needing, trusting
- induction into
introduction to, inclusion as a new member of