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First encounters
Promoting the telephone was a real challenge at first - what would people use it for and whom would they call?

The social conventions of the time meant that people were reluctant to call each other at home 'unannounced'.

The equipment was also very expensive, so at first the telephone was adopted mainly for business use. Many of the early telephones were established as point-to-point circuits between business premises and were not connected to the main network.
The telephone becomes universal
In trade and commerce the telephone was universal by the time of the First World War (1914-1918) but private subscribers were still a minority.

During the war, more people came into contact with field telephones in Flanders and elsewhere and so became 'telephone minded'.

After the war, the cost of a telephone at home was still out of reach for many people but the fast-growing number of payphones meant the service was at least available to all in an emergency.
Telephone-impact on everyday life
The telephone had become the stuff of everyday life well before the Second World War - at least for some Britons.

But in 1945 there were about 4 telephone lines per 100 of the population including business lines. That was to change rapidly in the next three decades. The telephone was about to come out of the parlour and into the kitchen...
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...