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Events in telecommunications history


The centenary of the telephone was celebrated on 10 March 1976. A hundred years previously Alexander Graham Bell had heralded a new era in communication with the words, "Mr Watson, come here, I want you" (see 1876 entry). To commemorate the event, the Post Office issued a set of four special stamps in values of 8.5p, 10p, 11p and 13p. All four stamps, designed by Philip Sharland, highlighted the importance of the telephone to the community and featured its use in an every day situation. The 8.5p stamp showed a mother at home making a social or domestic call; the 10p showed a policeman dealing with an emergency call and on the 11p stamp a district nurse taking a social welfare call was depicted. An industrialist at work appeared on the 13p stamp.

Britain's first commercially produced electronic telephone exchange, the TXE4, was opened at the Rectory Exchange at Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham. They were manufactured for public service in exchanges handling 3,000 to 40,000 lines to gradually replace the existing Strowger and crossbar electromechanical exchanges.

During the 1980s and 1990s the TXE and TXK families of electronic and electromechanical exchanges were gradually replaced with System X and System Y digital exchanges in a £20 billion investment programme. The last TXE2 exchanges (Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, Llandovery, Wales and Ramsbury, England) were closed on 23 June 1995. The last TXK crossbar exchange, at Droitwich, was withdrawn in 1994.

The UK network became totally digital on 11 March 1998 with the closure of the last electronic TXE4 exchanges at Leigh-on-Sea and Selby and their conversion to System Y (AXE 10) and System X respectively.

The Post Office opened the world's largest international exchange at Stag Lane, Edgware.

The last manual exchange in the United Kingdom at Portree in the Isle of Skye closed. The UK telephone system was now fully automatic.

Trans-Horizon Radio, using the Troposphere, was inaugurated to provide telephone links between North Sea oil platforms and the mainland.

The first trial was held of the proposed Post Office viewdata development.

Telephone No.764 Mk 2 (the Keyphone) was introduced. The Keyphone was now generally available to subscribers following market trials in 1972 and even earlier trials as far back as 1963. The most striking and original feature of this new telephone was the keypad instead of the conventional dial. With the rapid expansion of subscriber dialling of trunk and international calls, longer telephone numbers had to be used. Keying these numbers was an easier operation than dialling in the traditional manner. Microelectronic circuitry beneath the keypad stored the numbers and transmitted them to the exchange at the normal speed.

The TAT 6 transatlantic telephone cable was laid between Green Hill, Rhode Island, USA and St. Hilaire-de-Riez, France. It was retired in 1994 after 18 years of service.

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