US 3315805 A
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April 25, 1967 BRENNER ET AL 3,315,805
MAGNETIC SORTING MEANS Original Filed June 19, 1962 3 Sheets-Sheet 1 JOHN DOE I46 PINE ST.
N.Y-C.. 50. N.Y. ll
Fl 6 l CHARACTER accoemnou INPUT INVENTORS WILLIAM BRENNER BY SIDNEY KOSLOW April 25, 1967 w, BRENNER ET AL MAGNETIC SORTING MEANS 3 Sheets-Sheet 2 Original. Filed June 19, 1962 INVENTORS WILLIAM BRENNER y SIDNEY KOSLOW -lii I I m April 25, 1967 w. BRENNER ET 3,315,805
MAGNETIC SORTING MEANS Original Filed June 19. 1962 5 Sheets-Sheet 5 v w 4 A mm C TN 8 6 V15 MN 7 R w W Mflu MAM W 6 a n .O RH H5 18 MP A j M r u L A, w M 7 K M 3 T H I. E F- D D N 0 R 0 6 n 0 C V. A E W E M R D n a m n M 4 U G 6 R 0 a a w w L a m s 1 r E 4 #5. 5 o W PW u. 0 "L E J i s MAN f Z L 2 s v w y LA 6 a, mu m m 3 3 C 6 E I m a M m m F 4 F F "4 BY SIDNEY KOSLOW FIG 3c FIG 3D United States Patent 1 Claim. (Cl. 209--111.8)
This application is a division of our prior copending application, Ser. No. 202,291, filed June 19, 1962, now Patent No. 3,246,751, which was a continuation in part of our Patent No. 3,040,323 entitled Magnetic Coding Means granted June 19, 1962.
This invention relates to means and methods for sorting mail or other articles and more particularly to such means using magnetic recording.
More particularly the invention relates to means and methods for applying magnetic material, for instance, tape, to a predetermined portion of the envelope, recording the address information on the magnetic material, and sorting the mail by magnetically reading the address information and applying said information to automatic sorting apparatus.
There is a great need for a system of the present type since the mail today is still being sorted by hand in the same manner as centuries ago. This problem has not been solved or improved to any significant degree from its original state, although virtually all other fields have been mechanized by automatic labor-saving devices.
This problem is accentuated by the fact that an average piece of mail is sorted about five or six times as follows:
(1) At the origination post office, local mail is sorted from non-local mail.
(2) At the origination general post ofiice, the mail is again sorted.
(3) At the destination general post office, it is again sorted to local post ofiices or Zones.
(4) At the destination local post office, it is again sorted by route.
(5) It is again sorted by the carrier to arrange the route.
Additional sortings are required to separate air mail, and possibly at intermediate general post oflices.
The magnitude of the problem is shown by the fact that the United States Post Office has over half a million employees, the great majority of whom are employed in the tedious and monotonous hand sorting of mail.
The main difiiculties in sorting are as follows:
The addressing is done by the public with diiferent handwritings, different fonts of type, different inks and pencils, different spacing between lines and letters, and diiferent spacing on the face of the envelope so that direct reading of the address is not economically practical particularly for the multiple sorts involved. Also, the envelopes are of different sizes and shapes and made of different types of paper so that methods involving printing of codes on the envelopes with special inks are not practical due to the possibility of the ink running on certain types of paper.
The present invention solves all of these problems by placing magnetic material, for instance, tape or film, in a predetermined position on the envelope and recording the address information on the tape automatically or semiautomatically. Coding is done with a magnetic head connected to input means such as keyboard encoders, voice input or automatic coding means responsive to automatic reading character recognition means.
Sorting is fully automatic, the tape being read by a magnetic head and the information fed to fully automatic sorting apparatus.
Magnetic recording has great advantages over all other coding methods.
(1) All necessary information may be recorded on a piece of magnetic material such as tape approximately 1" by which is approximately the area of a small postage stamp.
(la) Errors made in the present system are easily corrected. Other systems involving printing are impractical to correct. Systems which require printing on the reverse side are not practical to correct, for instance, with postcards.
(2) The tape or other recording means may be easily erased if a mistake is made, or for forwarding mail.
3) The tape or other recording means is not aifected by the type texture or color of paper or by any designs or marking on the paper.
(4) The tape or other recording means is not limited to use on paper but may be used on wood, metal, plastic, or any other material.
(5) The tape or other recording means is not affected by being wet.
(6) The coding is simply done by operation of a simple typewriter keyboard by anyone who can type with little or no special training.
(7) The coding is only done once, no matter how many sortings are required.
(8) Checking of coding and remote operation with closed circuit television monitors are easily arranged.
(9) Each operator sets his own pace as the conveyor belt carrying the envelopes is synchronized by the coding apparatus.
(10) Large mailers may supply their own coded tapes automatically coded when addressed, thereby saving postal encoding time.
(11) Return envelopes can be precoded for address as well as department.
Accordingly, a principal object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methods for sorting mail, articles or the equivalent.
Another object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methods for encoding the maximum information on the smallest area on mail to be sorted.
Another object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methods of sorting mail, articles, or the equivalent by utilizing magnetic material placed on the envelope or articles.
Another object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methods for sorting mail, articles or the equivalent comprising placing magnetic material such as film or tape on the envelopes, magnetically recording, with audio, code, or character recognition inputs, the address info-rmation onto said material, and sorting said mail by placing the envelopes under a magnetic reading head, reading and decoding the information read, and feeding the information to mechanical sorting apparatus.
Another object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methodsfor coding and sorting mail which is not dependent upon the type of paper or size of the envelopes.
Another object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methods for coding and sorting mail or the like in which the coded information may be easily erased from the envelopes to correct errors, or change the information when necessary for forwarding mail, for change of address, or when entering a new country. Another object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methods for coding and sorting mail which is fully automatic.
Another object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methods for sorting mail which is simple and permits training an operator with a minimum I of effort.
Another object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methods for sorting mail wherein the only skill required of the operator is the ability to read and to type on a simple keyboard.
Another object of the invention is to provide new and improved means and methods for coding mail from a remote location.
These and other objects of the invention Will be apparent from the following specification and drawings of which:
FIGURE 1 is a front view of an envelope face showing the use of the invention.
FIGURE 1A illustrates a pair of magnetic tracks.
FIGURE 1B illustrates a typical method of coding.
FIGURE 2 is a schematic view of an embodiment of the coding means of the invention.
FIGURE 2A is a detail view of the magnetic head mounting.
FIGURE 3 is a block diagram of the magnetic sorting process.
FIGURES 3A and sorting means.
FIGURES 3C and 3D are detail views of the shielding.
FIGURE 1 shows a typical envelope or article label 1 having an area 2 for name and address. The magnetic material and film tape 3 of the present invention which is about by 1" is placed on a predetermined portion of the envelope preferably close to two sides so that the spacing can be easily controlled.
If desired the envelope may be coated or made of a magnetically impregnated material. The contents of the envelope is normally isolated magnetically from the strip by the envelope material. Greater shielding may be provided by adding a layer of non-magnetic material under the magnetic material or by placing another magnetic strip under the coded strip and isolated from the coded strip. This can be done by placing a non-magnetic material between two layers of magnetic material on the surface of the envelope or placing one strip of magnetic material on either side of the envelope using the envelope material as the non-magnetic spacer.
FIGURE 1A illustrates a pair of magnetic tracks 4 and 5 illustrating typical spacing of the information. The information may be binary in form consisting of plus and minus magnetic recordings of plus and minus pulses. The information is fed from a keyboard or a memory or other input means such as audio or character recognition means to a magnetic head which scans the piece of tape by moving the head, the envelope, or both. A preferable mode of operation is serial coding and is not affected by slight misregistration of the envelope providing the magnetic area 3 is scanned by the recording head. The registration tolerance can be increased by increasing the track widths and the magentic are-a. Typical dimensions are shown.
FIGURE 2 shows a coding arrangement comprising a conveyor belt mounted on the rollers 11 and 12 which are connected to be driven by the motor 513. The conveyor belt contains a series of raised corner pieces or clips 14, 15, 16, and so forth, which are used to locate the envelopes so that the magnetic tapes will pass operatively through the magnetic field of the magnetic head which may be mounted above the conveyor belt. Since in this application it is desirable that the head scan the tape it may be preferable to stop the conveyor belt and have the head 20 movably mounted for the necessary scanning. Only a very small movement is required and the head may be mounted on a simple mechanical rack as shown in FIGURE 2A, or the head may be stationary and the envelope move past it in operative contact relation ship.
FIGURE 15 illustrates one method of coding. A six space binary code is used to provide sixty-four combinations for the alphabet, numbers 0 to 9, plus any special instructions. The illustrative address is spelled adjacent the corresponding binary symbols. An area of 1 inch 3B are detail views of the automatic 4- by of an inch is sufficient. In the figure the tracks are broken by line X-X.
The information may be recorded on the tape preferably in binary fonm by means of coding means 19 having a standard keyboard 21. Coding apparatus of this type is conventional, being used to insert information into conventional computers, with and without memory means, as shown on page 54 of Review of Input and Output Equipment Used in Computer Systems, published March 1953, by American Institute of Electrical Engineers. See also, High Speed Computing Devices, Engineering Research Association, McGraw Hill, page 43.
A typical machine is the fiexowriter manufactured by Commerical Controls, Inc., Rochester, New York, and also shown in Patent No. 2,905,298. Thismachine has a standard keyboard which controls various switches in combinations which change the letters and numbers on the keyboardto binary type information, namely, various combinations of plus pulses and minus pulses. Equivalent means are described in Bryant Computer Products, division paper Introduction to Pulse Magnetic Recording" by Frank J. Lohan. Other equivalent information input or coding means may be used, for instance, audio coding or character recognition equipment may be used. Equipments which are responsive to audio input information and which will transform this information to discrete signals suitable to feed modern computers (including magnetic tape input) are described on pages 214 to 218 of the Proceedings of the Eastern Joint AIEE-IRE-ACM Computer Conference, December 1957, Washington, DC, also on pages 294 to 309 in the IBM Journal of Research and. Development, vol. 2, No. 4, October 1958, and pages 41 to 47 of Automatic Control Magazine, January 1960, and references cited therein.
Character recognition equipment which will perform in a comparable manner is described in (Sprick) U.S. Patent No. 2,838,602, also on pages 129 to 133 in Electrical Manufacturing, June 1960, also on pages 238 to 242 of the Proceedings of the Eastern Joint AIEE-IRE- ACM Computer Conference, December 1957, Washington, D.C. These equiments can be connected to operate a matrix similar to that in the fiexowriter described above or they may feed the magnetic writing heads directly. When this class of equipment is brought down in price it may be economically sound to use them to replace the first reading of the address which is done by a person in one embodiment of this invention. This type of equipment will however always be more expensive for the reading process than the simpler magnetic reading equipment.
A preferred mode of operation is to read the address at the first reading with character recognition equipment and convert and encode the letter magnetically so that the letter can be read and sorted the remaining number of times required on simpler less expensive magnetic equipment. The above apparatus may be substituted for the keyboard flexowriter shown.
The letters are placai on the conveyor belt with the stamped corner placed against the corner members 14, 15 and so forth on the conveyor. The letters may be placed by hand, or equivalent mechanical means may be utilized. A small piece of magnetic material or tape is then affixed to the envelope from the edges of the envelope in the corner holders 14, 15 and so forth. The pieces of tape may be placed by hand or preferably by automatic conventional apparatus as manufactured by Minnesota Mining and Mfg. Co.
Alternatively, a strip film of magnetic material may be rolled, printed or sprayed on the envelope, or the paper of the envelope or label may be impregnated with magnetic material. The magnetic material may be present from a previous operation or manufactured as such.
The conveyor belt may be arranged and controlled to automatically stop with the tape underneath the recording head 20 by means of automatic control switch means 23 connected-to the motor and operated by finger 23' on belt 10. Switch .23 is adapted to be by-passed by switch 24 .in response to a release key after the information is applied to the keyboard 21. Alternatively, the head may be stationary and the envelope scanned by moving it past the head.
The information may be recorded in the following sequence:
(1) Type all information into memory 24'. (2) Press release key whereby:
Head 20 scans 1 Memory empties to recording head 20 and Belt moves to next position after time delay.
Memory 24' preferably holds one or more addresses so that the head scanning can take place on one letter while typing the following letter address. The memory may be a conventional magnetic drum or register device.
As the envelopes are advanced, they will ride off the,
end of the conveyor belt over the corner spacers into a magazine 30, or directly to a sorting means as shown in FIGURES 3A and 3B. If desired the memory may be dispensed with and the information fed directly to the recording head. In this case the input means must be synchronized with the recording head.
'A suggested improvement is to have a closed circuit television display 25 connected to the encoder 19 which displays the typed information as it is inserted in the keyboard 21. This will provide a check for the operator. Another suggested improvement is to incorporate a video camera 26 mounted above the conveyor belt and connected to a split video display on tube 25. This would provide the picture of the address on the envelope which would then be compared directly with the picture of the typed information to be recorded on the tape. With this arrangement the operator would not have to look at the envelope but only at the video display tube 25.
Therefore, the operator could be remote from the conveyor belt, even in a dilferent building or in a different part of the city. This arrangement would provide great flexibility, for instance, operators at a central location could encode mail at various other stations in the city and could switch one post oflice station to another depending upon the various loads of mail in the different stations.
Switch 23 is normally closed by spring 23a and switch 24 is normally opened by spring 24a. When the release or sync key is pushed, switch 24 is momentarily closed by a pulse P from time delay 9 through coil 24b to start belt moving again to new position.
Error detection may be effected by counting the total number of pulses per track, at the encoding or'reading stations.
FIGURE 1A shows a detail of the magnetic tape to be affixed to the envelope. Suggested dimensions are preferably 1" x 7 and the information is preferably serially recorded along two linear magnetic tracks 4 and 5 which areeach approximately 4" wide. The magnetic impressions are represented by lines on the tracks 4 and 5 in FIGURE 1A. The magnetic impressions are produced by plus or minus pulses.
FIGURE 1B shows a typical method of coding with the plus and minus pulses illustrating the coding for the address given in FIGURE 1, namely 146 Pine Street, NYC. 50, NY. For instance, the upper track 4 would first receive the New York State information and then the New York city information. a
This is followed by two blank spaces to accommodate locations requiring more letters and is then followed by the zone 50 designation. The other track 5 shows typical coding for Pine plus three blank spaces for street requiring more letters, followed by the symbol S for street and the numbers 146. Additional spaces on either track may be used for additional coding information, for instance, for foreign or air mail or any other pertinent information. The code illustrated is a six element code computers.
which provides 64 different combinations for the alphabet and numbers plus additional combinations for other purposes. A piece of tape of the size shown, namely, 1" in length, will accommodate spaces for at least 15 letters or symbols in each track as illustrated in FIGURE 1B, for a minimum of 30 letters.
FIGURE 2A illustrates one method of scanning the magnetic coder 20. In this method the magnetic head 20 is mounted on a movable plate which has a rack 61 and a pair of sliding bars 62 and 63 which are adapted to fit in the solts 62 and 63' of the upper plate 64 which is fixedly mounted on a suitable frame. The motor 65 is mounted on the fixed plate 64 and has an output drive gear 66 which is adapted to move the rack 61 and therefore, scan and return the head 20 in response to motor control 67 which is triggered bya sync pulse from encoder 19.
Magnetic shielding may be placed under the tape or film or on the interior of the envelope. This would eliminate any possible interference with. magnetic con tents in the envelope such as checks printed with magnetic ink.
FIGURE 3 shows a block diagram of the automatic sorting apparatus comprising an input magazine 35, a conveyor 36, magnetic reading head 37, and automatic sorting apparatus 38. Information from the reading head 37 is fed to a memory means 41, then to a binary to alpha-numeric decoder 42, and word decoder 43, then to a time delay means 44, the output of which would be connected to the sorting gates, FIGURE 3A. Separate boxes 42 and 43 are shown for the decoders to better explain the retrieval of information. Actually this entire operation could be shown in one block. This system provides a series of sorting gates spaced along the conveyor belt. Since the different gates necessarily would require different times for a particular envelope to reach them, a different time delay would be required to operate each gate.
Memory 41 may be a conventional magnetic drum as manufactured by Laboratory for Electronics, Boston, Mass. or Bryant Computer Products, Springfield, Vermont or other conventional register means. Memory 41 may be bypassed by switch 41a if desired.
Coding operation A piece of magnetic tape about 1" by Zi is placed with adhesive on the envelope in a predetermined position, preferably by machine.
The tape on the envelope is then placed under a magnetic recording head. The head may be a conventional recording head of the type used in recording on magnetic tape. In the present application it is preferable to use a double or multiple head for making several separate magnetic tracks, with corresponding memory means.
The address on the envelope is read visually, and the operator operates a standard typewriter keyboard on a conventional coding machine. Equivalent conventional input means may be used. The purpose of the coding machine is to translate the visual symbols of the address into information that may be easily handled with standard computer techniques. The information is preferably converted into a binary form which is a code consisting of only two types of characters, for instance or The encoder may be a conventional machine of the type used in coding and feeding binary information to conventional This type machine has a standard typewriter keyboard and each key operates a switch which energizes a matrix. For instance, when key represents positive electrical pulses and represents negative electrical pulses or the absence of pulses. The different letters and numbers have different combinations. The use of binary information is a well-known computer technique.
After the operator has inserted the information on the memory 24', he presses a release key and the head is scanned or moved relative to the tape by a simple mechanical arrangement, for instance, a rack, the movement of which is synchronized with the memory. The operator may then press another key connected to relay 24a to move the belt, or it may preferably be done with the release key through a time delay 9 sufficient for the recording. A typical address has a street number and name, city, possibly a zone number, and state information. Each bit of information has its own field on the tape.
Direct audio input means 19a or character recognition reading input means 191) may be connected by switch 190, Memory 24 may be bypassed by switch 24a.
The tape 3 itself may be conventional magnetic tape of the type used in magnetic recorders and dictating machines with the addition of an adhesive to affix it to the envelope. The adhesive is preferably of the pressure sensitive type.
Alternatively, a magnetic film may be rolled, sprayed, or printed on the envelope or a magnetic film or tape may be incorporated in the postage stamp. The main diificulty in using the magnetic postage stamps is that their location on the envelope is not under the direct control of the Post Office.
More specifically, the mail to be sorted is fed on a belt as described in connection with FIGURES 2 or 3B under a conventional magnetic reading head 37. The envelopes must be located on the belt, as in FIGURES 2 or 3B, with sufiicient registration so that the pieces of tape will pass in operative proximity to the magnetic reading head. This may be done by clipping the envelopes in corner brackets on a horizontal belt or by holding the envelopes vertically by means of clips or rollers. As the tape of a particular envelope passes or is otherwise scanned by the reading head, the binary information is read, decoded, and fed to automatic sorting apparatus.
Serial coding makes lateral registration and skewing less critical. Longitudinal registration is not critical at all. The sorting apparatus may comprise a series of pivotally mounted gates which are selectively opened to guide the letters into particular slots. Alternatively, air jet diverters may be used. Due to the fact that it takes the envelopes a definite time to travel from the reading head to the particular slot or gate, time delay 44 must be utilized between the reading and the mechanical operation of the particular gate.
The decoding apparatus directly connected to the reading head 37 preferably comprises a memory 41, which may be a magnetic drum or register, a binary to alphanumeric decoder 42 similar to the conventional teletypewriter or flexowriter except that instead of actuating typewriter keys the information will be utilized by a word decoder 43 to actuate the sorting apparatus. For instance, to separate New York mail from all other mail, the N.Y. binary information which may be would have to be collated to actuate the N.Y. gate. Time delay 44 may be a magnetic drum synchronized with the conveyor.
Specifically, the pluses and minuses which are read are preferably fed to a memory device 41 which may be a magnetic drum, then to a decoder 42 which is a conventional computer type having various circuit combinations of vacuum tubes to sort out the difierent combinations of symbols. For instance, assuming the letter X is represented by the first would choose one of two circuits, the second would choose one of two circuits connected to the first chosen circuit, the next symbol which is a would choose one of two circuits connected to the second chosen circuit, and the fourth symbol which is a would choose one of two circuits connected to the third chosen circuit, etc. At the termination of this combination of circuits would be a utilization -.device, for instance, a relay which would be responsive to the N and to no other combination. Other equivalent computer logic circuits may be used as well.
The N and Y pulses would go through the same typeof selection. Decoder 42 may be a Uniprinter as manufactured by Remington Rand as described on page 59 of Review of Input and Output Equipment Used in Computers, published by American Institute of Electrical Engineers.
The combination of the N and Y information would be selected in the word decoder 43 in similar manner to actuate the N.Y. gate to receive the N.Y. mail. Due to the fact that there is a definite travel time for the envelopes between the reader and the N.Y. or other gate, it is necessary to insert a time delay 44 equal to the belt travel time.
Word or letter combination decoder 43 may be a series of conventional circuits arranged to give single outputs to different combinations of input circuits as described above or it may comprise conventional type coincidence or comparison circuits generally used in computer operations.
In the usual situation where the mail is being sorted into many categories, each destination gate would have to have a different time delay since the gates would have to be spaced along the conveyor belt at different distances from the reading head.
FIGURE 3A shows a detail of typical sorting apparatus. The letters 50 and 51 ride on a belt 52 which is compartmented by vertical members 53 and 54. The letters are preferably carried between fairly narrow walls so that they remain substantially upright. The walls comprise a series of pivotally mounted gates 55 and 56 each opening into a slot 55' and 56 for the different locations, for instance, N.Y., NJ. The gates are normally held closed by the springs 55a and 56a and linkages 55c and 56c which are operated from the delay means 44 of FIGURE 3.
More specifically as shown in FIGURE 3B, the mail to be sorted may be fed from a spring loaded magazine 74) or directly from the coding apparatus in vertical position by means of rollers 71, 72, 73, 74, and so forth. The mail is preferably inverted so that the tape 3 rides a predetermined distance from the table 75 past the reading head 76, and then onto a conveyor belt 77 into the automatic sorting apparatus 78. The conveyor belt drive shaft 79 is synchronized with the time delay apparatus 44. The types of articles that may be coded, sorted, or controlled by the present invention is unlimited ranging from letters or smaller articles to railroad cars or larger articles.
FIGURES 3C and 3D show means for shielding the envelope for instance, from magnetic contents in the en velope.
In FIGURE 3C the envelope is shielded by placing a magnetic layer 111, then a non-magnetic layer 112, and then a second magnetic layer 113, which is adapted to be magnetized with the information. The layer 111 will therefore shield the information on layer 113 from any magnetic interference inside the envelope.
FIGURE 3D shows another method of shielding the envelope 110 by placing a magnetic layer 114 inside the envelope and the usual magnetic layer 115 on the outside for receiving the information.
Many modifications may be made by those who desire to practice the invention without departing from the scope thereof which is defined by the following claim.
Means for automatically sorting mail pieces of varying size having a written address area and having magnetic address information thereon on an area spaced a predetermined distance from one edge of said mail pieces, comprising;
a magnetic reading head mounted in predetermined space relation to said conveyor,
registration means on said conveyor adapted to register said magnetic address area with said reading head, said registration means being adapted to receive said pieces of varying size,
a decoder connected to said head,
a plurality of sorting gates mounted in operative relation to said conveyor and connected to said decoder.
References Cited by the Examiner UNITED STATES PATENTS M. HENSON WOOD, JR., Primary Examiner.
ROBERT B. REEVES, Examiner.
R. A. SCHACHER, Assistant Examiner.