Early days of tele­phone com­mu­ni­ca­tion

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Tele­phones re­ally took off in 1878. Alexander Gra­ham Bell demon­strated the de­vice to Queen Vic­to­ria at Os­borne House on the Isle of Wight on 14 Jan­uary, mak­ing calls to Lon­don, Cowes and Southamp­ton.

The first com­mer­cial tele­phone ex­change in the world was opened at New Haven, Con­necti­cut, with 21 sub­scribers on 28 Jan­uary 1878. Five months later, in June, the Tele­phone Com­pany Ltd ( Bell’s Patents) was formed to mar­ket Bell’s tele­phones in Great Bri­tain. The fol­low­ing year it opened its first tele­phone ex­change in the UK in Colman Street in the City of Lon­don with just seven sub­scribers.

In 1878, Thomas Alva Edi­son patented in Amer­ica a car­bon tele­phone trans­mit­ter in­vented the pre­vi­ous year – a great im­prove­ment on Bell’s tele­phone trans­mit­ter which worked by means of mag­netic cur­rent. The first trial of a long- dis­tance call in Great Bri­tain was held on 1 Novem­ber 1878 with a call be­tween Can­non Street, Lon­don, and Nor­wich, us­ing an Edi­son trans­mit­ter on a tele­graph wire.

The Tele­phone Com­pany opened an­other two ex­changes to­wards the end of 1879 at 101 Lead­en­hall Street and 3 Palace Cham­bers, West­min­ster – the num­ber of sub­scribers now to­talled 200.

Ex­changes were also opened by the com­pany later in the year in Glas­gow, Manch­ester, Liver­pool, Sh­effield, Ed­in­burgh, Birm­ing­ham and Bris­tol.

The Tele­phone Com­pany Ltd and the Edi­son Tele­phone Com­pany of Lon­don Ltd were amal­ga­mated on 13 May to form the United Tele­phone Com­pany. The new com­pany con­trolled both Bell’s and Edi­son’s patents.

By the mid-1890s, sev­eral com­pa­nies had ei­ther merged with or been taken over by the sole re­main­ing pri­vate con­cern, the Na­tional Tele­phone Com­pany ( NTC).

In 1896, the Post Of­fice, which had been in com­pe­ti­tion with the NTC, took over the trunk (long dis­tance) ser­vice, and fi­nally the whole com­pany in 1912.

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