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Deja vu

Publicity poster (IRP1) - held by the BT Archives

Finance and investment  : paying for it

Building a network involves a delicate balancing act. On the one hand, the operator has to be careful not to spend all the investment capital on the infrastructure - leaving nothing in reserve to develop and operate the services that customers demand. On the other hand, trying to provide advanced services without good reliable connections to underpin them is a recipe for customer frustration and disaster.

Getting the balance wrong has been the downfall of many companies, from the age of telegraph through to today's cable and mobile networks. Whilst getting it right has led to staggering commercial success.

The huge amounts paid for third generation mobile licences were made in anticipation of a new opportunity for companies to successfully develop broadband services for telephones. But success isn't guaranteed and the payments also represent a new chapter in a long ongoing story.

Prestel 'Homelink' publicity

New equals danger : we don't need that...

The history of telecomms is littered with the sad stories of people and companies that were too innovative - trying to bring technologies to markets that just weren't ready for them.

The transistor, for example, was first discovered in 1947 - but widespread use in telecommunications did not follow until the 1960s. until then the invention's main application was the lightweight portable transistor radio. Once transistors had 'proved' themselves in radios, the computer makers started thinking about using them, too.

At each step on the technological ladder, developers tend to encounter 'techno fear' - the reluctance of people to embrace something new - something unknown.

Microwave waveguide section - a Connected Earth artefact, now at the Milton Keynes Museum

Bandwidth drives progress  : more demand, more invention

The constant search for greater bandwidth - additional capacity on existing lines - is a recurring cause of new discoveries.

Alexander Graham Bell wasn't originally aiming for the telephone when he started his quest - rather he was looking for a way to send multiple messages down the same telegraph line. Nor were the pioneers of the internet searching for what they eventually created - rather they were looking for ways to distribute information faster and more securely.

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.

featured story

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...