Building the networks
Telegraph, telephone, wireless and mobile: the story of how the various communication networks were constructed over the last two hundred years or so.
Running cables and wires from place to place, or sending signals between towers, dishes and aerials has an impact on the landscape. If you try to route it all underground, that creates an impact too - every time you need to lay or repair a cable.
It looks basic but that's not to say that there's no expertise and technology involved.
It's a lot more complicated and involved than it looks ...
Generally, only up to a point. It's expensive to bury cables underground - and very difficult to reach them for repair, maintenance and replacement once they're there. Also, laying cables underground is quite an involved and complex business.
The main problems are in surveying the route beforehand - finding a nice flat stretch of seabed - and also in paying out miles of cable without it snapping. Then you have the problem of making sure the cable remains working thousands of feet underwater - and repairing it if it goes wrong.
Specialised techniques and cable laying ships are a must ...
Throughout television history there has always been a large and hidden distribution network - a 'secret' infrastructure of feed points, cables, microwave and satellite links that covers the whole country and circles the globe. For years, this 'hidden' network was only really known to network and broadcast engineers ...
Keeping the network running
'We are not interested in the possibilities of failure - they do not exist,' Queen Victoria once said.
There are possibilities of failure in a telecommunications network, yet the network cannot be allowed to fail - it's too important. So it has to be made failure-proof.
It means concentrating on 'resilience' - in other words, designing systems that are hardened against accident and damage - and therefore less likely to fail.
It also means incorporating 'redundancy' - an extra back-up that can fill the gap if anything does go wrong.
This was never truer than during the Second World War when Britain was under intense aerial bombardment for almost five years. Afterwards, the Cold War planners had to look at what would be needed to keep communications working in the wake of a nuclear strike.
In the beginning, when private companies were providing telegraph and telephone services, there was no recognisable 'house style'.
That changed when the GPO took over from the 1890s. The Post Office years saw the development of staff uniforms and vehicle liveries that defined the look and feel of the network in Britain.
Since privatisation, that house style has changed again ...
Buildings and places
If you want to see the physical monument to the history of telecommunications in Britain, just look around you...
Telegraph, telephone and other networks have created some very distinctive and in some cases dramatic building designs, structures and architecture. The physical infrastructure is everywhere, even under your feet as you walk.
Just as the equipment was standardised, so were Britain's 6,000 telephone exchanges, with a standard 'house style' that was adopted for more than half a century. Exchanges were almost unique in this - even railway stations tended to look different from one place to the next.
Throughout the history of telecommunications, numerous other buildings have stood out as particularly significant architectural and historical milestones.
What do all those boxes, cabinets and covers actually do? This is where you can find out ...
Everything about the kiosk has been controversial at some point in its 120-year history: the design, the colour, the material, the availability and the locations chosen. The controversy raging now, in the age of the mobile, is whether we still need them at all ...