A stock ticker is a report of the price for certain securities, updated continuously throughout the trading session by the various stock exchanges. A "tick" is any change in price, whether that movement is up or down. A stock ticker automatically displays these ticks, along with other relevant information, like volume, that investors and traders use to stay informed about current market conditions.
A limited number of stocks appear on the stock ticker during any particular period, due to the large number of stocks trading at the same time. Often, the stocks with the greatest change in price from the previous day's trading session, or those trading under the highest volume appear on the stock ticker.
You have probably seen a stock ticker scrolling by at the bottom of the financial news networks on television. The ticker provides current information for certain stocks, including the ticker symbol (the one-to four-letter code that represents a particular stock), quantity traded (volume for each transaction), price, a green "up" arrow if the price is higher than the previous day's closing value, a red "down" arrow if the price is lower, and the net price change (either as a dollar amount or percentage) from the previous day's close. If the price is unchanged, the arrow may be gray in color or simply absent. Often, the ticker symbol and the net price change also appear color-coded: green if the price is higher, red if the price is lower.
Many of today's fully electronic stock tickers display market data in real-time or with a small delay. You can watch stock tickers on a variety of financial news networks, and many trading platforms allow you to customize and view stock tickers that can be displayed at the bottom of your computer monitor.
The first telegraphic ticker tape was created in 1867 by Edward Calahan, who was an employee of the American Telegraph Company. Just four years later, Thomas Edison improved upon Calahan's invention and patented it. Mechanical tickers were printed on paper by machines that made flow of information more efficient. As technology evolved, that dissemination became faster and almost real-time as we can see today.
If stocks are something you're interested in, then you'll need to consider having a brokerage account. Brokerage accounts will give you access to a variety of investable assets. You can check out Investopedia's list of the best online stock brokers to get an idea of the accounts you may need and which of the brokers work best for you.