BT Archives

Events in Telecommunications History

1965

INTELSAT 1 (Early Bird) the first commercial communications satellite, was launched into a synchronous orbit of 22,300 miles on 6 April.

Prime Minister Harold Wilson MP opened the BT Tower (then known as the Post Office Tower) on Friday 8 October in London, Britain's highest building at the time at 620 feet (189 metres), including a 40 ft (12 metre) lattice aerial on top. It was designed to carry aerials for the Post Office microwave network covering some 130 stations throughout the country, including the Post Office satellite earth station at Goonhilly.

The Tower - the focal point for this network - and the four-storey building below are equipped to handle 150,000 simultaneous telephone connections and to provide 40 channels for black and white or colour television. It was partly to meet the growing demands of broadcasting that the Tower was opened, enabling the use of microwaves instead of landlines.

Postmaster-General Anthony Wedgwood Benn, opened the Tower to the public on 19 May the following year, accompanied by Sir Billy Butlin who had taken the lease on the revolving restaurant on the 34th floor.

Begun in 1961, the Tower cost £9 million to build, and weighs 13,000 tons, including 95 tons of high tensile steel in the base and 695 tons of mild steel in the structure. It was designed to sway not more than 20 centimetres (almost 8 inches) each way in winds up to 100 mph. There are 4,500 square metres (50,000) square feet) of glass on the outside, set in stainless steel window frames.

The Tower Suite conference area, 158 metres (520 feet) above ground, revolves two and a half times each hour. Nylon tyred wheels running on inner and outer circular rails support the rotating structure which weighs 30 tons.

During the first year the Tower was open to the public - from 19 May 1966 to 19 May 1967 - it was visited by nearly 1 million visitors, 105,000 of whom dined in the revolving restaurant. They were transported by the Tower's two lifts, which are among the fastest in Europe, travelling at 6 metres per second. During that first year the lifts between them travelled nearly 70,000 kilometres. The fare for everyone, whether dining or not, was 4 shillings (20p) and half price for children.

The country was shocked when a bomb placed by a terrorist bomber on the 31st floor of the Tower exploded at 4.30am on 31 October 1971. A warning had been phoned to Purley exchange at 9pm the previous evening, but despite a search nothing had been found, and the call had been thought to be a hoax. The result of the bombing was a tightening of security that left the Tower largely closed to the public on a permanent basis. The total number of visitors to the Tower up until that time had been 4,632,822, making it one of London's most popular tourist attractions. The restaurant remained in operation until 1980 when its lease expired, when it was also closed to the public except for hospitality events or charity fund-raising functions, such as Comic Relief.

Trial installations of electronic equipment for telephone exchanges with a capacity for up to 200 telephone lines were brought into service at Leamington Spa on 25 March and Peterborough on 10 June. Leamington Spa was a GEC "RS31" design, Peterborough was an Ericsson Telephones Ltd. "Pentex" design. Both were forerunners of the Post Office TXE2.

The public radiophone service for vehicle users in South Lancashire  was extended to the London area.

Datel services were extended.

The TAT 4 transatlantic telephone cable was laid between Tuckerton, New Jersey and St. Hilaire-de-Riez, France. It was retired in 1987 after 22 years of service.

The first Internet was begun by Bolt, Beranek & Newman (BBN). Called the ARPANET, it was a network connecting the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), SRI in Stanford, USA, University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Utah, using 50Kbps circuits. It was completed to its original specification in 1969.

In 1984 ARPANET was divided into two networks, one to serve the military (MILNET) and the other to support academic research (ARPANET). The US Department of Defense continued to support both networks.
In 1992 the Internet Society was chartered, triggering the World Wide Web phenomenon.

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