BT Archives


Events in Telecommunications History

1959

The 700 series of telephone designs was introduced by the Post Office. It was much lighter than previous designs with lightweight components and a new easily cleaned plastic material, available in a range of six attractive colours, marking the demise of black as the standard telephone colour. The familiar 'curly cord' connecting the handset to the telephone now also made its first appearance. The 700 series was designed for the Post Office by W.J. Avery of Ericsson, but owed a distinct debt to the Bell 500.

The Postmaster-General, Ernest Marples, announced the new Friendly Telephone policy at a press conference in the House of Commons on 11 March. The new policy was result of a report entitled, Telephone Service and the Customer on a visit by a Post Office team the previous November to study the telephone system in the United States.

Anticipating the greater role that would be played by automation in the system, the policy was intended to ensure that customers received a friendly service when personal contact was made. A striking feature of the policy was that "subscribers" were henceforward to be known as "customers", and that operators in particular were to be released from the strict rules which governed what phrases they were allowed to use when speaking to customers. It was noted at the time that for the previous 54 years operators had not been allowed to say "Good Morning" when taking a call, only such formal phrases as "Number, please".

As part of the policy, social surveys were conducted to discover what customers wanted, and an organisation set up to develop facilities to meet their need as far as possible.

The policy was promoted within the Post Office with signed copies of booklets outlining the new approach being sent to everyone in the telephone service. The booklet stated, "The aim and purpose of the telephone service is not only to serve, but to please the customer. Everything must be subordinated and surrendered to that aim. Our telephone service must be a personal service to meet the customers' wishes. We must study their wishes all the time; we must then satisfy them by a service which is courteous, pleasing and speedy."

The Postmaster-General tape-recorded a personal message to all operators, to which they could listen by ringing a special number. In the Areas, Telephone Managers held local press conferences, and posters were put up in exchanges.

In its objectives and its customer focus, there are remarkable similarities with BT's Putting Customers First programme which followed over 40 years later.

The first versions of Pay-On-Answer coinboxes on public payphones were introduced and began to supersede the Button A and B models . They were necessary following the introduction of STD in major towns because the A and B boxes could not be modified to cope with automatically connected trunk calls. Public demand had been for a coinbox slot that would accept the 3d piece, but after only seven years the box was modified to accept 6d (2 1/2p) and 1s (5p) coins only. The introduction of decimal coinage in 1971 made another modification necessary. Thereafter, there was only one further modification before Pay-On-Answer payphones were phased out. Plans were made in 1978 to update the entire payphone system by exploiting the advantages of electronic technology. It was decided that the new system would be based on the pre-payment approach with a refund of unused coins where appropriate. Modernisation began in 1985 when BT embarked on a £160 million programme to replace red phoneboxes and Pay-On-Answer mechanisms with the newly introduced blue payphone in new housings, the KX 100 - 400 family of anodised aluminium and stainless steel booths.

New dialling codes, preliminary to the start of subscriber trunk dialling in London, were introduced in the London Director Area on 6 April.

"0 for Operator", which had been introduced to London in 1928 when the first automatic director exchange was opened in London, TRU for Trunks and TOL for Toll were replaced by 100.

The second transatlantic telephone cable (TAT 2) was laid by the Post Office cableship HMTS Monarch (No. 4) between Penmarch, France and Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Canada via Terrenceville, Newfoundland, Canada.

TAT 2 was taken out of service in 1982 after 23 years of service.

A car radiophone service for vehicle users was introduced in South Lancashire on 28 October.

The Freephone service was made available to subscribers in any part of the country.

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