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In the beginning was the word
The human voice is our most useful and persuasive communications tool - we use it to express our hopes and fears, love and hate, joys and sorrows. For most of our civilised existence, we were only able to do that with people in the same room, street or locality.

These are the most natural forms of communication - the ones that formed the building blocks for everything that followed.
Getting the message
The first writing materials were developed in 4000 BC but how did you get your letter to its destination?

The fastest way of travel was on horseback - so the only way of communicating over distance was by messenger.
Line of sight communications
Most primitive distance communications used visual devices that on a clear day could be seen up to 25 miles away.

If you wanted to send a message further than that, you needed a chain ...
The telecommunications breakthrough
The Industrial Revolution (steam power and mechanical engineering) provided the basic ingredients of the telecommunications breakthrough.

Scientific advances of the 18th and early 19th centuries provided understanding of electro-magnetism and electricity. Now the new machine tools and factories meant better devices could be built quickly and cheaply. The ingredients were in place for the first telecommunications equipment - all that was missing was a need and a market.
The communications time-line
If the whole history of human civilisation was a day, modern telecommunications (the telegraph and all that followed) would only represent our last 30 seconds. That's how recent all of this has been.

But within that time-line, see how much has happened in that last half minute - and how progress is still accelerating, second by second ...
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...