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What is a Stock Ticker?

By O. Wallace
Updated May 16, 2024
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A stock ticker is a means by which stock prices are conveyed in real time to investors. At one time, a stock ticker was a machine which used telegraph technology to transmit this information onto paper or "ticker tape," but with the advent of television and computers, today's stock ticker is a simulated ticker display.

Thomas Edison was quite possibly the most influential inventor in stock ticker technology, but the invention had its beginning in 1867 with S.S. Law's Gold Indicator. The Gold Indicator was used by the Gold Exchange on Wall Street. The machine displayed the current price of gold on two sides: one faced the street for customers to see, and the other faced traders inside.

Shortly after Law's invention came Edward A. Calahan's Stock Printer. This machine was the first stock telegraph printing machine that printed the stock prices onto a tape. The ticking sound of the machine earned it the name stock ticker, and it stuck.

Over the next century, Thomas Edison and other ingenious inventors developed the technology that revolutionized the way investors monitored their stocks. The last mechanical ticker was introduced in 1960, but was eventually replaced by modern stock tickers that are powered by computers and have electronic displays. Now, in addition to the continuous stream of television news channel stock information, stock tickers can be customized for your personal computer, PDA or cellular phone.

The main components of the stock ticker include the following: the Ticker Symbol, which is the symbol of the stock; the volume, or how many shares have traded that day; and the price at which the stock is trading. The next amount listed is how much the price has changed since last traded, followed by an up or down arrow signifying whether it traded up or down. The last amount is the amount by which the price changed since the last close.

Colors are another component of many stock tickers. Generally, green is used when the stock is trading higher at last close and red if it is lower. Blue or white is used if the stock price is unchanged. Of course, due to the fact that millions of trades on thousands of stocks are transacted on a daily basis, a stock ticker cannot possibly keep up. Because of this, only selected trades and stocks are shown on a stock ticker.

The advent of modern technology has replaced the literal leg work that was once so crucial to the stock market, while giving investors all over the world the information they need to make informed trades.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Discussion Comments
By sunshined — On Jun 24, 2011

Just a quick glance at an online stock ticker gives me a wealth of information. Not only do I get an instant idea of how the overall market is performing, but I also know what the specific stocks I am watching are doing.

I also have stock symbols on my ticker that represent certain sectors such as gold, oil or semi conductors in the technology industry. Because I am involved in short term trading, this is vital to me on a daily basis.

The Dow, Nasdaq and S & P will often move together, but that is not always the case. Anytime I see any big difference in them, I always take a closer look to see what is going on.

By myharley — On Jun 23, 2011

You often see a stock ticker scrolling along the bottom of news or financial sites. I have a streaming stock ticker on my computer that I set up through my online brokerage company.

I love the flexibility of being able to choose the stock symbols I want to watch. This way I have constant access to the changing prices without needing to check each stock individually. Having these real time quotes is very helpful if you make several trades during the day or week.

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