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What is Ticker Tape?

Niki Acker
Updated May 16, 2024
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Ticker tape is a thin ribbon of paper once used in stock ticker machines, which provided a running print-out of stock market fluctuations. Today, stock ticker machines have largely been replaced with digital "tickers" on websites, television news, or LED displays. The ticker tape machine, invented in 1867, first allowed people to see stock quotes in something close to real time.

Before the stock ticker, stock prices were delivered by hand, usually just in a daily digest. Because stock prices fluctuate constantly, being aware of them in real time offers a significant benefit to investors and traders.

The stock ticker was, in a way, the precursor to the modern computer printer. Textual information was transported through wires to the stock ticker machine to be printed out onto ticker tape. In early models, the information transported to the stock ticker was written in Morse code, but in 1869, Thomas Edison developed an alphanumeric system for conveying stock information.

Alphanumeric ticker symbols, codes indicating the different companies trading in the stock market, were used along with numeric indicators of current stock prices. A special typewriter was used to input the information, which was transmitted by telegraph to stock ticker machines and printed out on ticker tape.

The principle behind Edison's alphanumeric code is still used in modern day stock information, though the ticker symbols have been standardized and updated. In addition, many tickers now use color coding — green, red, and blue or white — so that one can see at a glance whether each company has gained or lost stock market points or remained stable, respectively. The stock ticker became obsolete with the advent of the Internet and digital on-screen displays. Though the stock ticker was an immense improvement over hand-delivery of stock quotes, it did not operate in true real time until 1996, with earlier models running at least 15 to 20 minutes behind.

In the days of ticker tape, old printouts were often shredded to make a type of confetti that could be thrown from office windows during street parades. This practice, common in Manhattan, New York and other urban centers, became known as a "ticker tape parade." Ticker tape parades still exist, though other shredded office documents now serve as the confetti.

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.
Niki Acker
By Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a SmartCapitalMind editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range of interesting and unusual topics to gather ideas for her own articles. A graduate of UCLA with a double major in Linguistics and Anthropology, Niki's diverse academic background and curiosity make her well-suited to create engaging content for WiseGeekreaders. "
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Niki Acker
Niki Acker
"In addition to her role as a SmartCapitalMind editor, Niki Foster is passionate about educating herself on a wide range...
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