An “idiot board” is a board (such as a chalk board or a piece of cardboard) with a performer’s lines written on it. The “idiot board” is kept out of view of the live audience (or the televised audience).
The “teleprompter” (also known as “autocue” and “telescript") was invented in the early 1950s and provides electronic visual text. The teleprompter was used—and dubbed an “idiot board”—at the Republican National Convention in Chicago in July 1952.
President Barack Obama used the teleprompter so much that the machine was jokingly given the nickname of TOTUS (Teleprompter Of The United States). In October 2010, former Vice President Walter Mondale advised Obama to stop relying on “idiot boards.”
A teleprompter (also known as an autocue or a telescript) is a display device that prompts the person speaking with an electronic visual text of a speech or script. Using a teleprompter is similar to the practice of using cue cards. The screen is in front of and usually below the lens of the camera, and the words on the screen are reflected to the eyes of the performer using a sheet of clear glass or specially prepared beam splitter. Light from the performer passes through the front side of the glass into the lens, while a shroud surrounding the lens and the back side of the glass prevents unwanted light from reflecting into the lens.
As the speaker does not need to look down to consult written notes, he or she appears to have memorized the speech or be speaking spontaneously, and will look directly into the camera lens. Cue cards, on the other hand, will always be placed away from the lens axis, making the speaker look at a point beside the camera, which leaves a “distracted” impression.
The word TelePrompTer, with internal capitalization, originated as a trade name used by the TelePrompTer Company, which first developed the electronic device in the 1950s.
The word teleprompter, with no capitalization, had become a genericized trademark, because it is used to refer to similar systems manufactured by many different companies. The United States Patent Office does not have any “live” trademarks registered for the word “teleprompter,” but this does not rule out the possibility of a company enforcing the trademark without registering it. Some other common generic terms for this type of device include:
. electronic speech notes
. cueing device
. idiot board (slang)
. Autocue (in certain Commonwealth countries)
The Free Dictionary
(Communication Arts / Broadcasting) a slang name for Autocue
(Historical Dictionary of American Slang)
idiot board n. IDIOT CARD, 1; (hence) the pane of a TelePrompTer.
1952 Newsweek (Aug. 4) 51: The Republicans and Democrats got their “idiot boards” free.
1955 Sat. Eve. Post (Sept. 24) 29: “"Idiot boards” are held out of camera range to prompt forgetful performers. Girls who hold them up are called “idiot girls.”
Google News Archive
8 July 1952, Milwaukee (WI) Sentinel, “Is This Oratory the Best Republicans Can Offer?” by Gene Fowler, pt. 1, pg. 6, cols. 2-3:
One thing that is of excellent quality at this convention is a device, hidden from most of the audience, and known to practitioners of the television art as an “idiot board.” This is a promoter’s device by means of which a most forgetful or frightened orator or actor can read his lines without the audience becoming aware of the fact.
The original “idiot board” was a slate upon which lines were chalked. The late John Barrymore was the most adept reader of that kind of “idiot board.”
When television came along, it soon was learned that anyone seen reading from a manuscript (and most radio graduates had poor memories due to their leanings upon scripts) lost his audience appeal. So various kinds of devices were improvised to help the men and women of impaired memory. And now we have, as at the convention, a black box with a sort of player-piano roll running inside it and containing in large block letters the words of a speech.
Of course, a man who needs glasses still must wear them while utilizing the idiot board. And some persons believe, to paraphrase Miss Dorothy Parker’s rhyme, “Voters seldom make passes at candidates who wear glasses.”
By Wilson Tucker
New York, NY: Rinehart
Off stage, out of the line of sight of the cameras and the studio audience, a grinning stagehand in white coveralls held aloft an idiot-board on which were chalked the words: four million.
The Eisenhower years; affairs of state
By Richard Halworth Rovere
New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Cudahy
... instead of Chicago Stadium, and the introduction of the “teleprompter,” or “idiot board,” on the lectern.
Lootville: a novel
By Benedict Freedman; Nancy Freedman (Mars)
New York, NY: Holt
“Actors don’t act. They don’t even know their lines. They’ve got idiot boards all over the place. What’s an idiot board? It’s a big piece of cardboard a guy holds up right next to the camera so when another actor says, ‘Who are you?’ the big idiot can look up and see written on the cardboard who he is—Zane Cochrane.”
POLITICO.com - Ben Smith
October 04, 2010
Mondale to Obama: Ditch the ‘idiot boards’
Former Vice President Walter Mondale suggested in an interview today President Obama stop relying on “idiot boards”—teleprompters, that is—to deliver his message to the American people.
“He uses these idiot boards to read speeches in television, and I think he loses the connection that he needs emotionally with American voters,” Mondale said in an interview set to air this evening on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, according to a transcript from the network.
“Idiot board” is a term used in television and movie production to refer to boards held up for performers to read off.
“If you’re looking at the teleprompter, you’re here, you’re here, you’re here and you’re—your audience is right there,” Mondale said. “And I think he needs to do more of that.”
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (1) Comments • Monday, October 04, 2010 • Permalink
Okay now this one just made me smile. What a stupid thingy he got there. He must have been laughing all day too.