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Events in telecommunications history

1924

Following the development of the beam system (short wave point-to-point radio telegraphy), the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company entered into an agreement with the British Government in November for the provision of stations to set up an Imperial Wireless Chain in England, Australia, Canada, India and South Africa.

The first Siemens No. 16 automatic Non-Director exchange was opened at Swansea. It was based on the step-by-step system and was also used later at Edinburgh, Sheffield, Brighton and Leicester exchanges. It was similar in design to what had become the standard automatic system in 1922, and many of its features were reproduced in the design of standard circuits.

Telephone No. 150 was introduced. Similar to earlier telephones in that it was a candlestick model, it was innovatory in introducing the dial to most subscribers for the first time. Reflecting the progress of automatic switching, the dial operated the automatic exchange switching mechanism by sending out a series of electrical impulses corresponding to the number being dialled. It was no longer necessary for the operator to connect all calls. Where a No. 150 was still connected to a manual exchange, the space in the base of the telephone for the dial was covered by a dummy insert (used as a number label holder) which could be replaced by a dial when the exchange went automatic.

A competition to design a new kiosk was organised and several leading architects were invited to submit designs. Models were placed on view behind the National Gallery and selection was made by the Fine Arts Commission. The winner was a design by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and, after a slight modification to the door and change of material from mild steel to cast iron, it was adopted by the Post Office and designated Kiosk No. 2, or K2.

Some important improvements to the door mechanism and window arrangement were contained in the kiosk. The glass was deliberately made into small panels so that breakages could be repaired with a minimum of renewal. There was also a ventilation system which worked through perforations in the dome. Because of its cast iron construction it weighed approximately 1.5 tons and had more interior space than its predecessor. The most distinctive feature was undoubtedly the bright red colour scheme. The kiosk's introduction in 1927 was mainly confined to London and some large provincial towns and proved to be very successful. It was eventually made obsolete in June 1936, although a number continue to be found in London today and very few in other large cities. A number have been designated as Grade II listed buildings and will continue to be preserved.

Gilbert Scott's original model of what was to become the K2 still stands outside the National Gallery, at first glance identical to its progeny although it is in fact different in some details, principally in its wooden construction.

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