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Mobile phone user in Budapest, Hungary

Globalisation : world forces

Globalisation means the creation of truly international companies and markets, driven by global rather than national agendas.

Although we regard today as the era of globalisation in fact, in telecommunications, this process began with the creation of international networks by the Victorians. But the 1960s and 1970s saw this process accelerate, in particular with the need for international standards in voice and data traffic.

The old national 'flag bearer' companies (often referred to as 'PTTs' - posts, telegraphs and telephone administrations) have grown and merged, to evolve into multinational giants that set the development and technological agenda.

In this new world, a gentlemanly spirit of co-operation and partnership between nations must stand alongside the cut and thrust of business. Indeed nowadays many British telecommunications companies operate also in other countries - and many non-British companies provide services here.

Television demonstration at Bell Systems Laboratories, 1927

The AT&T Laboratories: making history

The AT&T Laboratories (renamed from Bell Laboratories in 1996)  have been a centre for creativity since their founding father Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.

The Laboratories worked at the forefront of research, as the research and development resource of the massive AT&T corporation in the USA. They were a popular destination for engineering and science graduates, being seen as seedbeds of innovation and creativity. Funded by AT&T, the laboratories were charged with producing new technology that the corporation could turn into commercial products.

AT&T Laboratories employees include several Nobel prize winners alongside many eminent scientists, who have been responsible for developing and inventing some of the major milestones of telecommunication. These include the transatlantic telephone service,  synthetic speech, direct distance dialling, communication satellites, touch tone phones, cellular phones, and Unix and C++ programming languages. Today, its scientists are focusing on such areas as software, wireless communications, digital signal processing, photonics, voice and speech recognition and multimedia applications.  AT&T Labs is so productive it receives four patents a day on significant advances in communications.

AT&T logo

AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph Company) : American pioneers

The AT&T Corporation, which evolved from the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, is the largest telecommunications company in the United States, and a world-wide leader in communications services.

The original company was set up as a subsidiary of the American Bell Company in 1885 to build and operate the long-distance telephone network in the United States. By 1892 the system it built stretched from New York to Chicago and went on to San Francisco by 1915. The company became so successful that it bought out its parent, the American Bell Company, in 1899.

AT&T managed the Bell System, descended from Alexander Bell's original patent. The network operated under government regulation until January 1, 1984, when the old Bell organisation was divested into smaller units. From 1984 until 1996 AT&T was an integrated provider of communications services and products, network equipment and computer systems. It then split into three separate companies AT&T, Lucent Technologies and NCR Corporation. In 2005, AT&T is a global networking leader, focused on delivering IP-based solutions to enterprise and government customers. Additionally, as AT&T pivots away from traditional consumer services, the company continues to offer consumers and small businesses a breakthrough alternative to traditional services - Voice over IP.

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...