Alexander Graham Bell / telecommunications / telephone

A brief history of the telephone in Britain.

“Mr. Watson, would you please come here, I want you”. These were the very first words uttered by Alexander Graham Bell to his assistant in the next room, back in 1876. The road to these simple sentence, however, had been long and winding.

Almost forty years before, on 25 July 1837, Cook and Wheatstone demonstrated their invention, the telegraph, to the directors of the London and Birmingham Railway. The telegraph consisted of a set of needles pivoted on a dial on which the letters of the alphabet arranged. In 1870, the network of private telegraph companies was nationalized and operations were taken over by the Post Office.

Following Bell’s invention of the telephone and his famous first call, in 1877 the new device was presented to the British Government. A year later, the Telephone Company was launched and provided Britain’s first telephones. In 1879, there were just eight subscribers to the new service.

At the dawn of the 20th Century, in the year 1901, Guglielmo Marconi transmitted the first signal across the Atlantic. Telecommunications boomed after the end of the first World War – the number of telephones and subscribers grew rapidly as prices fell and the British people began to grasp the full benefit of Bell’s invention, but International Direct Dialling was introduced between London and Paris, only in 1963. 1983 saw the arrival of the first mobile phone. The new invention took about 10 hours to charge fully, which was enough for up to 30 minutes of talk time.

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