Early days of telephone communication
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.