Dr. Hell and his company

Rudolf Hell was born on December 19, 1901 in Eggmühl, Bavaria.
Rudolf Hell wanted to become an electrical engineer, that was clear to him at early time. At almost eighteen years he started his studies at
the Technical University in Munich. He was particularly impressed by
his professor Max Dieckmann, who taught at the University of wireless telegraphy. After completing his studies, he became a assistant to Dieckmann in 1923.
In 1925, both succeeded in the invention of the light electric image intensifier tube for television. The basic principle of dissolving pictorial representations in points and to further process electronically has been successfully pursued.
In 1927 he doctorates about a radio direction finding for aviation, which was far ahead of his time: pilots could now fligh ahead to requestet destination even with a bad view condtion.
  dr hell foto
  Dr. Hell becomes entrepreneur    

In 1929, the engineer set himself independently and founded his company in Berlin. The basis for this was its development of the Hellschreiber, of which more than 50,000 devices were manufactured until 1945. In addition, since 1937, the production of radio direction finder and encryption devices for the Hellschreiber.

At the end of the war, the company was almost completely destroyed and the rest dismantled. Hell was not discouraged and began in his adopted home Kiel in 1947 again. The interest in image transmission increases in the post-war time, so that already in 1950, the first devices could be delivered to the federal post office and news paper agencies. Always, where current pictures from all over the world have been needed quickly, the name soon reaches its old awareness.

After Dr. Hell involved in the transfer of texts and pictures, the work area of the company from about 1950 was also on the field of reproduction technology, i.e. the processing of texts and images for prepress.

With its ideas, Hell put the foundation for the digitized electronic image and word processing today.

In his life Dr. Rudolf Bright awarded many times for his inventions. He is u.a. Carrier of the Great Federal Cross of Merit with Star, the Werner-of-Siemens-Ring, the Gutenberg Prize. He is also honorary citizen of the city Kiel and honorary citizen of the University of Kiel.

Rudolf Hell died at the age of 100 years on March 11, 2002 in Kiel.

Audio file: Dr.-Ing. Rudolf Hell   (German)
courtesy of the Kiel University of Applied Sciences.
This audio file is part of the audioguide "CampusKulTour" of the University of Applied Sciences.
  The work area "Communications Engineering"
Hell continued to develop the transmission technology, both for text transmission with Morse code devices and Hellschreiber, as well as for image transmission with fax machines and telephoto devices. He laid the foundations for sending texts and images all over the world.

Morse devices

Morse technology goes back to the inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, who first demonstrated his telegraph to the public on September 4, 1837. For a long time, the transmission speeds of Morse code technology depended on the performance of the radio operator. In its initial phase, the Hell company produced Morse code transmitters that scanned pre-punched perforated tape with a keyhole punch. Thus, the transmission speed was significantly increased.


Hellschreiber / Hell writer

The "Hellschreiber" is a further development of the teleprinter. The letters of a text to be transmitted are sent pictorially as an array of pixels. As a result, interference pulses on the transmission path can only impair the legibility of one or more characters, but not cause the wrong character to be recorded.

Facsimile devices

Compared to the "Hell Schreiber", "Facsimile devices" not only transmit individual characters, but entire documents consisting of black and white pixels, e.g. business letters or drawings. Hell developed the first fax machine as early as 1956. In particular, the weather fax machines developed around the same time quickly spread among weather services and shipping.

A specialty was the press fax, which could be used to transmit finished print templates, e.g. for newspaper pages, from the editorial office to the printing locations. This technique was mainly used in large countries (USA, Russia) when the newspaper was to be printed simultaneously at several printing locations, often thousands of kilometers away.

Wirephoto devices

"Wirephoto" devices could send and receive images with a continuous gradation of gray or colored pixels. The press and the police used these devices in particular. Later, portable telephoto transmitters were also developed, with which journalists could quickly transmit current images to their editorial offices from anywhere in the world.

  The work area "Reproduction Technology"

Dr. Hell's inventions in the field of reproducing text and images revolutionized printing technology. The basic idea pursued by Dr. Hell was the decomposition of characters and images into individual pixels in order to then be able to further process them electronically.


From 1951 Rudolf Hell developed the "Klischograph". This is a device for making printing blocks by engraving a scanned image. Not only could the Klischograph work faster, but chemicals were no longer needed.

A further development was the Vario-Klischograph from 1957, which was able to enlarge or reduce original images. The Helio-Klischograph, developed in 1962, engraves printing cylinders for the gravure printing process. Helio-Klischographs are still built today by Hell Gravure Systems in Kiel.


The "Digiset" is a digital-electronic light typesetting system for the production of typesetting. It was developed as early as 1965. The Digiset was the first system that could generate characters electronically. A cathode ray tube exposes the characters on photographic material. Its advantages are that it can be controlled by a typesetting computer and that electronic memories and other peripherals can be connected.

More than a million characters could be exposed per hour, significantly faster than phototypesetting machines with an opto-mechanical principle, in which the negative templates of the characters were x-rayed.


In 1963, Hell laid the foundation for modern scanner technology with the invention of the "Chromagraph". Color images could be scanned with these devices, with the image being enlarged or reduced in one operation, broken down into the color separations for four-color printing and the color separations were screened in order to finally expose them to film material. The previously usual reproduction with photographic means, on the other hand, requires many work steps and therefore much more time.

Hell developed a large number of scanners with different formats and functions, which became more powerful and faster with the further development of semiconductor technology and computer technology.


The "Chromacom system" was one of the first digital image processing systems for printing technology. The Combiscope was the central workplace of the Chromacom system, which was developed from 1978. Here, images were positioned in a predetermined layout and color corrections and retouching were carried out on the screen. Before the PC age, the Chromacom could perform the image manipulations that are available on any PC today.