BT Archives


Events in Telecommunications History

1936

The speaking clock was introduced, a service at first available only in London at Holborn Exchange. The Post Office had held a competition to decide on the voice to be recorded, and subscribers dialling TIM would hear the 'golden voice' of Miss Jane Cain, a London telephone operator, giving the Greenwich time correct to one-tenth of a second.

The accuracy of the speaking clock was calibrated and corrected by referencing to a time signal from the Royal Greenwich Observatory which was broadcast by Rugby Radio Station.

The voice of Jane Cain was replaced by that of Pat Simmons in 1963.

Kiosk No. 6 - the K6 - was introduced to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V. The 'Jubilee Kiosk', as it became known, was once again designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and was similar in appearance to Kiosk No. 2, the main difference being that the vertical bars in the windows and door were spaced further apart to improve visibility. The K2 had not penetrated far outside London, but the 'Jubilee' model became the first genuinely standard kiosk and was installed all over the country.

Under the "Jubilee Concession", introduced as part of that year's celebrations, kiosks were to be provided in every town or village with a post office, regardless of cost. As a result of this scheme over 8,000 new kiosks were installed, adding impetus to the spread of the K6.

In the following year, the "Tercentenary Concession" was introduced: if a local authority committed to paying £4 a year, then the normal subscription, for five years then the Post Office would install a kiosk on request almost anywhere. This scheme remained in force until 1949, and led to almost another 1,000 K6s being introduced. The "Rural Allocation Scheme" was introduced to replace it: kiosks were allocated to rural areas and installed where recommended by a rural local authority, whether likely to prove profitable or not.

The 'Jubilee Kiosk' is perhaps the best remembered example of Gilbert Scott's work (with the possible exception of Liverpool Cathedral) and is to this day fondly regarded as a typical British landmark. K6s survived the introduction of Nos. 7 and 8, but during the 1980s and early 1990s were frequently replaced with the modern KX 100 - 400 series of payphone booths. Thousands of old K6 kiosks were sold off at public auctions. Some were scrapped, but many more were put to a variety of imaginative and bizarre uses in private hands. However, the Department of the Environment and English Heritage worked with BT to identify kiosks, including more than 1,000 K6s, worthy of listing as being of special architectural and historical interest, mainly near existing listed buildings or in attractive town and country locations.

BT's approach had now almost gone full circle: instead of replacing them, the policy came to be to retain and reintroduce K6 kiosks in situ whenever practical, even if not listed. In 1999 there were over 15,000 of these old style kiosks in heritage sites, and the K6 kiosk was by now a registered design of British Telecommunications plc. From November 1997, BT licensed K6 kiosks for use by competitors.

In 1999, BT operated a network of over 140,000 public payphones of various designs across the UK, compared to 81,000 ten years previously, with an average of 5,000 new units being installed each year.

The 'Pip' tone signal was provided on timed calls as a regular feature for the first time from 15 August.

The world's first 12-channel carrier cable for commercial traffic was laid between Plymouth and Bristol.

The world's first coaxial cable was laid by the Post Office between London and Birmingham, providing 40 channels for telephone traffic.

The London Telecommunications Region and eight provincial regions were set up as a result of the findings of the Bridgeman Committee.

An ultra-short-wave link was established with the Channel Islands.

The first nine-channel short-wave radio link was installed between Belfast and Stranraer in Scotland.

Call queuing, with cyclic distribution, was introduced at larger directory enquiry bureaux.

A limited Anglo-Continental telex service was introduced.

'Country Satellite' exchanges were introduced for remote localities where there were no more than ten subscribers.

Trials were held of two-frequency trunk telephone signalling and dialling.

EMI developed a method of television transmission over screened pair cables and produced equipment which gave successful transmission of 405-line television over 15 miles of cable. This was used for the broadcast of the coronation of George VI in May 1937.

Telephone No. 332 was introduced by the Post Office, an improved design on the revolutionary No. 162 (introduced in 1929) as it was less liable to breakage and provided extra facilities controlled by press buttons.

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