WELCOME to your Telephone Exchange
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Welcome to your Telephone Exchange
In the Sixties, telephone exchange 'open days' were an opportunity for the G.P.O. to promote its services and for the public to see the latest developments in the switching of calls. Visits to an AutoManual Centre were particularly interesting as you could see both the operators at work and the equipment used to connect the calls. Children could visit the place where their parents worked and perhaps long to be an operator or engineer when they grew up.

Opposite is a typical 'open day' leaflet produced in 1968.

"This leaflet is provided to assist you during and after your visit. Your guide will be pleased to answer any questions."
GPO Telephones Timeline 
GPO Telephones Timeline

The GPO Timeline - a brief history of key organisational and name changes throughout the years...

Photo: GPO through the ages at Amberley.
The Switchroom
The Switchroom

Heart of the Operator Services; connecting calls, dealing with emergencies, providing a public service.

Today, there are very few calls that cannot be directly dialled by the customer, but this was not always the case...

Photo: A typical enquiry suite.
Inland Switching
Inland Switching

In the 21st century, virtually all (UK) telephone and data traffic is processed by digital switches. In this section we look back to a time when Strowger, Crossbar and Electronic switching carried the bulk of the calls...

We also find out about the development of Subscriber Trunk Dialling (STD) which greatly simplified the call set-up process.

Photo: Typical exchange racking and ladders.
International Switching
International Switching

The first International Subscriber Dialling (ISD) call was made by the Lord Mayor of London (Sir Ralph Perring) at 11am on 8th March 1963. Calling from Fleet Building, he dialled 13 digits and was connected to Monsieur Jacques Marette, the French Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and Telephones, in Paris.

Photo: Earlier times - inauguration of the new international switchboard circa 1933.
The PO Tower
The PO Tower

The Postmaster General, Anthony Wedgwood Benn, said that the Post Office Tower symbolised 20th-century Britain. Lean, practical and futuristic, it epitomised the technical and architectural skills of the second industrial revolution.

Photo: The Tower Auditorium & Maple Suite.
Light Straw is compiled using resources in the public domain:
Books, press releases, newspapers, memories and historical contributions from telecommunications staff and organisations past and present... 
Light Straw Archives The Light Straw Archives lead to a wealth of information about telecoms in days gone by...
...as well as current organisations who are shaping tomorrow's history.

Light Straw is compiled independently and is not endorsed by BT.
Design, images and text compiled by © Light-Straw. Page last updated March 2017. Checked May 2021.

All logos and trade marks are the property of their respective owners and are used on the Light Straw site(s) for review only. Students and researchers are recommended to make their own independent enquiries as to the accuracy of the information contained therein.