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Origins of microwave
In a sense, microwave and satellite links go right back to one of the ancient principles of primitive signal beacons - that you need a line of sight between two points.

The difference is now the two points can be thousands of miles apart - and not even on the surface of the Earth.

Microwave is one of the most effective technologies in the telecommunications field - a system that allows huge amounts of data or voice signal to be beamed from point A to point B.

Why did we need microwave links? Once again it was the need to send more messages ('bandwidth') that pushed technological progress. Wartime experience with radar showed how dish antennas could be used to focus beams of energy that could carry large amounts of information.
Into space
The start of the space age can be dated from two separate events towards the end of World War Two. First was the development of rockets that could escape the Earth's atmosphere - and with it, the potential to fire objects into orbit.

The second was the realisation that those orbiting objects - called satellites - could be used as reflectors to bounce signals around the Earth...
The first satellites
The theory of satellites was simple enough - shoot something out into space at the right speed and on the correct trajectory and it will stay up there, orbiting Earth, for years - if not forever.

And if that orbit is just the right distance out in space the satellite will keep pace with the rotation of the Earth - remaining on station out there in the skies.

Theory was one thing - but achieving the vision was not so simple.
Satellite tracking
The technological challenges faced by the pioneers in satellite communications were enormous. They had to find ways of tracking relatively tiny objects in space - objects that were moving at thousands of miles an hour.

And with the primitive computers of the time that stretched the technology of the 1950s and 1960s to the very limits.

But their success paved the way for the 'Global Village' and introduced a new era in television.
fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

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100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...