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Calgary taxi meter collection borne out of decades-old niche family business

A Calgary family business that's been around since the 1970s continues to be one of the top manufacturers of a rather niche product — taxi meters.

From mechanical brass cogs to wireless digital receipts, 7 decades worth of taxi meters

Record Technologies president Matt Collinson demonstrates how a 1940s taxi meter works. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

A Calgary family business that's been around since the 1970s continues to be one of the top manufacturers of a rather niche product — taxi meters. 

Record Technologies says it's one of just three main makers in North America today, and its meters are used in cabs around the world.

"My father actually drove a cab back in the day," president Matt Collinson told the Calgary Eyeopener. "He started his own fleet from there and then moved into the supplier aspect."

Watch a working 1940s taxi meter in action

6 years ago
Duration 0:50
A Calgary family business that's been around since the 1970s continues to be one of the top manufacturers of a rather niche product — taxi meters.

Meters through the ages

Over the decades, the family has amassed a bit of a personal "taxi meter museum," with models dating back more than seven decades. 

"They're all big, chunky and metal and weigh like five pounds each," said Collinson, gesturing to the earliest models in his collection, which date back to the '40s and '60s.

Collinson points to his earliest taxi meter, which dates back to the '40s. 'It's all made of brass and steel, very clockwork-y,' he says. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

The 1940s brick-sized model is a complex mechanical system of interlaced brass, steel, cogs, springs and gears.

"This is something I'd have to hire a clock worker to design, because if I took this apart piece by piece, I would never be able to put this back together," he said.

Having to lick your fingers

Record Technologies didn't enter the manufacturing scene until the '70s, but it was one of the first companies to utilize a rudimentary touch system with buttons, according to Collinson.

"It didn't work very well, because apparently there were stories of people having to lick their fingers to make it work properly," he laughed.

"If you had a dirty finger or something, you'd be sitting there bashing it."

Collinson says the contacts on this early button model often wouldn't work if a cab driver's fingers were dirty. (Paul Karchut/CBC)

In later models, they introduced a talking meter that would announce the fare in a monotone computerized voice.

Today, Collinson's models have built-in USB and Bluetooth compatibility, and they pair with an app that allows for wireless receipts and trip analytics. 

​He said what differentiates his product from that of his competitors in New York and Montreal is that his is "outrageously user friendly" and requires minimal setup. 

"I can go into your vehicle, plug this in and bingo."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and Paul Karchut

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