The Notificator

This post is part of a collection on Obscurities.

The Notificator was a paid notice board machine invented in England in the 1920s inspired by notice boards in Japanese train stations.

To use the Notificator, you'd pay a few pennies to write on a business-card sized piece of paper, which would then be loaded into the bottom of a column of similarly sized messages. The idea was the machine would be put in a busy place like a train station and you could use it to leave messages for friends like "meet me at Cafe XXX". The mechanical part of the device was just a system that automatically pulled old messages towards the top of the machine.

It's unclear if the Notificator was ever released. The only photos I've been able to track down are the obviously posed Modern Mechanix one and a Getty Images photo that, while posed, is at least in a public space. The company that manufactured them seems to have been embroiled in lawsuits and shut down within a few years. The last contemporary article about it is the one from Modern Mechanix (above), from the August 1935 issue.

The bit about being inspired by Japanese train stations is not in the Modern Mechanix article, but in a September 1932 London Times article I have been unable to track down (the Times archive is not public). The system referred to is probably a 伝言板 (dengonban), a blackboard left up in stations for people to write personal messages on. They were historically common but had become rare by the 90s due to the rise of cellphones and mischief. A survey of Tokyo-area JR stations in 2010 found only two where the boards were still available. In 2007 an NPO installed one just outside Shimokitazawa station, though it looks like it was removed sometime around the start of 2015.