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Accuracy First (1928)

Unrated | | Documentary, Short
A training film stressing accuracy for Western Union's keyboard operators, who were mostly women.


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The 5-minute self-contained excerpt shows by example how an interruption during typing a telegram results in an error costing a stock broker $2200. The telegram should have read "BUY ONE OCTOBER TWO DECEMBER ..." but was transmitted as "BUY ONOCTOBER TWO ..." The receiving operator simply thought a space was omitted and corrected it to read "BUY ON OCTOBER TWO ...". She should have had her supervisor check the transmitting message. Written by Arthur Hausner <genart@volcano.net>

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Documentary | Short






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One of the 50 films in the 4-disk boxed DVD set called "Treasures from American Film Archives (2000)", compiled by the National Film Preservation Foundation from 18 American film archives. This film was preserved by the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. This version is an excerpt with an uncredited piano music score and runs 5 minutes. See more »

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Provides An Interesting Look At a Once-Crucial Occupation
29 August 2005 | by See all my reviews

The video collection "Treasures From American Film Archives" preserves the two key sequences from this movie, which originally was made as a training film for Western Union employees. Their keyboard operators were once one of the nation's most essential occupations, on whom important communications of all kinds depended to get through quickly and accurately.

The story in "Accuracy First" is a simple cautionary tale about what can go wrong through mistakes that would be easy to make, using a stock exchange transaction as an example. The part of the movie that is omitted from the video release is supposed to have been of a purely technical nature, but even parts of what remains take some concentration to follow closely. The story part is clear enough, but the explanations of the operators' errors rather assume at least some working knowledge of telegraphy. It's rather an education in itself seeing how sharp these operators had to be, when a moment of inattentiveness could result in a subtle slip-up.

Since telegraphy long ago ceased to have the crucial importance that it once had, a movie like this is in one sense a curiosity. But of the routines, occupations, and devices that are currently central to our daily lives, how many of them could well be even more archaic and outmoded several decades from now? Certainly, the same exhortations given here to Western Union's keyboard operators could well apply, at least in a general sense, to those whose occupations serve a similar role today.

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