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Events in telecommunications history


On 1 January the Postmaster-General took over the system of the National Telephone Company at a cost of £12,515,264, inheriting 9,000 employees, 1,500,000 miles of wire and 1,565 exchanges - of which 231 had more than 300 subscribers each. The National Telephone Company provided for 561,738 subscribers altogether. Just under 70 exchanges were of the Central Battery type; most of the rest were of the magneto type.

For the first time a unified telephone system was available throughout most of Britain. From this date the Post Office became the monopoly supplier of telephone services with the exception of the remaining municipal services in Hull, Portsmouth and Guernsey. There followed a period of rapid expansion. In the next three years no fewer than 450 new exchanges were opened in places where there had previously been no telephone service.

The first experimental public automatic telephone exchange installed in the UK was opened for service at Epsom, Surrey, on 18 May. The equipment used was of the Strowger two-wire type and was supplied and installed by the Automatic Telephone Manufacturing Company Ltd of Liverpool. It had a capacity of 500 lines, and was the forerunner of the standard Strowger equipment adopted by the Post Office from 1922.

On 13 July another Strowger-type exchange was opened for service at the General Post Office, London. It was intended for Post Office use as a private branch exchange and was known as 'Official Switch'. Its equipment was for 900 lines, with an ultimate capacity of 1,500 lines, and it enabled GPO engineers to observe its technical performance and gain experience of its working.

The SS Titanic sank with great loss of life on 15 April after hitting an iceberg. But 700 passengers who would otherwise have been lost were saved as a result of a distress call by wireless telegraphy.

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